Reproductive Health Matters 2014;Supplement (43):1–10

The unmet need for safe abortion in Turkey: a role for medical abortion and training of medical students

Mihciokur S, Akin A, Dogan BG and Ozvaris SB

Abstract

Abortion has been legal and safe in Turkey since 1983, but the unmet need for safe abortion services remains high. Many medical practitioners believe that the introduction of medical abortion would address this. However, since 2012 there has been political opposition to the provision of abortion services. The government has been threatening to restrict the law, and following an administrative change in booking of appointments, some hospital clinics that provided family planning and abortion services had to stop providing abortions. Thus, the availability of safe abortion depends not only on permissive legislation but also political support and the ability of health professionals to provide it. We conducted a study among university medical school students in three provinces on their knowledge of abortion and abortion methods, to try to understand their future practice intentions. Pre-tested, structured, self-administered questionnaires were answered by 209 final-year medical students.

The students’ level of knowledge of abortion and abortion methods was very low. More than three-quarters had heard of surgical abortion, but only 56% mentioned medical abortion. Although nearly 90% supported making abortion services available in Turkey, their willingness to provide surgical abortion (16%) or medical abortion (15%) was low, due to lack of knowledge. Abortion care, including medical abortion, needs to be included in the medical school curriculum in order to safeguard this women’s health service.

Comment: Even in countries where abortion is legal, there can be strong political and societal opposition which can reflect on providers and educators. To save women’s health and reproductive rights, it is essential that safe abortion is included in the curricula of medical students, midwives and nurses. (HMV)