Turkey bans trips abroad for artificial insemination

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A woman in Istambul, Turkey (Image by Flickr user jikatu (CC: by-nc-sa))

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Artificial insemination is usually not controversial, at least not in the United States and many other countries. In Turkey, it's a different story, where artificial insemination is banned by law. And now, a new measure makes it a crime for a Turkish woman to get pregnant with sperm from a foreign donor. Officials say the measure is based on a law that forbids concealing a child's paternity. 

Pinar Ilkkaracan, co-founder of Women for Women's Human Rights in Istanbul, says the law reflects an inability or unwillingness to address womens rights.

"I think what is really behind this law is a very conservative attitude which is targeting single women who use artificial insemination to get children, and probably also gay couples."

Surprisingly, the Turkish public only heard of the new law through foreign media.

"It wasn't in the Turkish media ... until BBC brought it up. This regulation was published in the "Official Gazette" on the 6th of March. It's very much a backdoor regulation, a very sleazy one. So there hasn't been any public debate on this. So now the reactions are coming and the women’s groups are starting to prepare for a protest."

But the issue of artificial insemination has surfaced in the recent past. Last year it got a public airing when one of Turkey's best known actresses announced she had used a sperm donor in Denmark to conceive her daughter, who is now five months old.

Ilkkaracan believes that, until the recent measure, Turkey was headed towards "decriminalizing" sperm banks and allowing women to have in vitro fertilization through third party sperm donors.

The measure could impact Turkey's plans to join the European Union, where the big issue has always been how European Turkey really is.

"It seems that the government thinks that it is enough to have certain reforms regarding freedom of opinion, freedom of expression," said Ilkkaracan. "But when it comes to gender relations, to women's rights, I think they don't understand or they don't realize that their mentality has to change if they would really like to join the European Union, and this is another example of it."

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