ANKARA, Turkey, June 4 (UPI) -- Turkey's top Muslim cleric said Monday abortion is prohibited by Islamic law unless it is necessary to protect the health of the mother.
Mehmet Gormez, who heads Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate, said in his first comments on a possible amendment to Turkey's abortion law parents do not have "ownership" of the fetus in Islamic teaching, Today's Zaman reported.
Speaking at a meeting of provincial muftis, Gormez said: "So, a pregnant mother does not have the right and the authority to say: 'The body is mine, I can use it however I want. I can both have a baby and get rid of it if I want.' The mother is not the real owner of the fetus she carries. She cannot arbitrarily kill it. She is entrusted with taking care of it, protecting it and keeping it alive."
But Gormez said abortion is allowed to protect the health of the mother.
"I also want to point to a mistake many have been making on this issue," he said. "It is a gross injustice to handle this issue as a women's issue, as men have always held the greatest responsibility in this issue throughout history. And women have been those who suffered the most and have been victimized."
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan drew criticism recently from women's rights groups and opposition lawmakers when he characterized abortion and Caesarean births as "secret" plots to slow Turkey's economic growth and referred to abortion as "murder." Erdogan said no one should have the right to approve abortions.
Turkey's government is considering a bill that would reportedly reduce the time during which abortions can legally be performed from 10 weeks to four weeks into a pregnancy. Abortions up to 10 weeks after conception have been legal in the country since 1983.