Hundreds of abortion rights demonstrators on Sunday staged the largest protest yet against plans by Turkey's Islamic-rooted government to curb abortion, which critics say will amount to a virtual ban.
Women carrying banners that read "my body, my choice" and shouting anti-government slogans gathered in Istanbul's Kadikoy district. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called abortion "murder" and his government is reportedly working on legislation to ban abortion after four weeks from conception, except for in emergencies. It is now legal in Turkey up to 10 weeks from conception.
Erdogan has long urged Turkish families to have at least three children to keep up the country's population growth rate, but the government's plans to curb abortion stoked concerns over whether Erdogan is intent on pushing a stronger Islamist agenda.
Erdogan banned alcoholic beverages at city-run coffee shops when he was Istanbul's mayor in the mid-1990s. His government also tried to criminalize adultery after coming to power in late 2002 but had to step back under pressure from the EU.
Some analysts say Erdogan is pursuing a delicate strategy of beefing up Turkey's regional power with a large population while trying to balance the country's demographics in the face of high birth rate among the country's Kurds, a source of concern for Turkey since it is engaged in a bitter fight against Kurdish rebels who want autonomy in the largely Kurdish southeast.
"They say it is my body, my choice. Feminists say this," Erdogan said Saturday during a rally in the country's southeast. "No one has the right to abort a fetus in a body."