There’s been a huge public outcry in North Cyprus following news about unlawful late-term abortions at a private hospital in Girne. Ada Hospital has been temporarily closed by the TRNC authorities after police discovered the remains of five foetuses aged between 17 and 30 weeks, which some have labelled as “murder”.
A tip-off to the police resulted in the arrest of a security guard from the hospital who revealed details about the late terminations and where the foetuses were being buried. This led police to a site by Hz. Ömer Crypt in Çatalköy where they found five foetuses. It is thought dozens more may be buried there.
The discovery resulted in eight further arrests including Ada Hospital’s owners, Dr. Mehmet Ali Tunçbilek and Dr. Verda Tunçbilek, their head doctor Dr. Fahri Karagözlü, and the anaesthetist wife of National Unity Party (UBP) MP Ergün Serdaroğlu, Rasıha Serdaroğlu, who have all been remanded in custody. The authorities have also slapped a three-month closure order against the facility while they carry out further investigations.
Since the allegations about Ada Hospital, which specialises in IVF treatment, have come to light some members of the public have claimed the hospital was charging €5,000 for late-term abortions.
The TRNC law states that unless there is a fear for the life of the mother and her unborn child, there can be no termination of pregnancies after 10 weeks. Autopsies on the dead foetuses suggest they were between 17 weeks and 7.5 months old when aborted. Work is now underway to also identify the mothers who underwent the procedures, said to have taken place between 2013 and 2016.
Up to 500 babies “murdered” in the TRNC
Ada Hospital’s alleged unethical and unlawful practices have been met with revulsion and universal condemnation. Dr. Remzi Gardiyanoğlu, head of the TRNC’s Consultant Doctors Union, called the late terminations “murder”:
“Babies older than 30 weeks, that is [weighing] 2 kilograms, were even aborted. This is officially murder. Since 2012 when it’s become harder to have abortions in Turkey, we think there have been up to 500 unlawful abortions in the TRNC.”
Full-term babies are usually born between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy. Babies born as early as 24 weeks have a 40-50% survival rate. The odds increase significantly after 27 weeks, with babies given a 90% chance of survival.
Fears about the TRNC’s lax medical controls were raised back in 2012, when Turkey brought in restrictions for women wanting abortions. Some medical entrepreneurs viewed it as an opportunity for North Cyprus clinics to offer the procedure to women from mainland Turkey, resulting in the TRNC being dubbed “abortion paradise”.
Then TRNC Prime Minister İrsen Küçük vehemently rejected the notion, saying such health tourists would not be welcomed and that abortions in North Cyprus were conducted under strict rules.