Police accuse travel agent of 'abortion tourism'
Swift action by the Turkish Tourism Ministry has left one travel agency without a license.
By Tulin Daloglu and Bedrana Kaletovic for SES Türkiye in Ankara and Sarajevo -- 04/09/12
Weeks after a proposed tightening of Turkey's abortion law sparked public protests, officials have stripped a tourism agency of its license for allegedly suggesting out-of-state travel destinations where women could have the medical procedure.
More than 3,000 women took to the streets in June in Istanbul to protest a plan to change Turkey's abortion law. [Reuters]
Barracuda Tours and its owner, Cen Polatoglu, deny the allegation that the company promoted "four days, three nights and an abortion for $600."
"We never took a woman abroad in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) or elsewhere -to have abortion. I wrote an article about abortion for various online sites 3 Nights, 4 Days, Including Abortion, 299 Euros, where I argued if you ban abortion, there will always be an alternative," Polatoglu told SES Türkiye.
But the Ministry for Culture and Tourism suspended the company's license in August.
"It has been established that the Barracuda Tour agency offered abortion related travels to [people in] Ukraine, Romania and other countries," Cengiza Aydin, the cultural attaché at the Turkish Embassy in BiH, told SES Türkiye.
Polatoglu told SES Türkiye that he is "horrified" that the ministry has taken away his agency a license, which he has had for 33 years.
"It's an outright horrifying development that the ministry cancels my license without finding one single person who had abortion with a tour that we carried," Polatoglu said.
However, according to Balkan Insight, Polatoglu previously told the media that for years his company has been specialising in medical tourism.
“Women have abortions outside of the country because they do not want their families or friends to judge them," the website quoted Polatoglu as saying.
Turkey legalized abortion in 1965 and expanded the law in 1983, giving the women rights to abort in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. However, in June Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a government proposal that would prohibit abortions four weeks after conception.
Although abortion is legal in the country, it is frowned upon.
Ayhan Sefer Ustun, president of the Turkish Committee for Human Rights, told news agency Anatolia that he thinks abortion should be illegal.
"Abortion is a crime against humanity. A child, which would have been born, has been taken its natural life to live," Ustun said.
Out-of-country abortions are popular in some parts of Europe, including Poland, where a law stipulates that 15 percent of the country's abortions must be performed out of state.
The majority of the women from these countries go to Ukraine, Litvania, Russia, Czech Republic or Slovenia, where the price of abortion is around 600 euros.