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Turkey: Government Population Policies
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Population > Government Population Policies


For almost forty years after the establishment of the republic in 1923, the government of Turkey encouraged population growth. Use of contraceptives and distribution of information about them were prohibited by law, and the state provided financial incentives to encourage large families. During the 1950s, however, members of the political elite gradually became concerned that the country's relatively high population growth rate of nearly 3 percent was hurting economic development. Following the military coup of May 1960, population planning became a major government objective. A 1965 family planning law provided for the establishment of the Family Planning Division within the Ministry of Health and Social Assistance to extend birth control information and services to as many couples as possible. A 1967 law decriminalized abortion and authorized use of this procedure for a broad range of medical causes. Access to abortion was liberalized further by legislation in 1983 stipulating that a pregnancy could be terminated lawfully upon request in a public hospital up to ten weeks after conception. A married woman seeking an abortion was required to obtain her husband's permission or submit a formal statement of assumption of all responsibility prior to the procedure.

Family planning services have expanded considerably since the mid-1960s. A primary focus has been on educating couples about the material and health benefits of both limiting and spacing births. The Ministry of Health adopted the 1978 International Congress on Primary Health Care recommendations that family planning be combined with maternal and child health services and undertaken in cooperation with state hospitals, maternity hospitals, health centers, and clinics in both urban and rural areas. In addition to its support of public education about family planning, the ministry has solicited the cooperation of volunteer associations and international organizations to promote its programs. But despite concerted government efforts to encourage smaller families, Turkey's birth rate between 1965 and 1994 declined at a relatively slow pace, falling only from thirty-three to twenty-eight births per 1,000 population.

Concern about the continuing high birth rate prompted the Ministry of Health in 1986 to launch a new population control campaign that concentrated on rural areas, where the fertility rate was highest. The campaign included the construction of new health clinics, the expansion of centers training medical professionals in family planning counseling, and the enlistment of private-sector cooperation in the distribution of birth control information and materials in factories. Private businesses established the Turkish Family Health and Planning Foundation, which has supplemented the state's population control efforts since 1986 through its financial support for special training programs and nationwide television advertisements.

Religion has not been an impediment to birth control. Turkey's Sunni Muslim religious leaders, who have addressed the subject of birth control in religious publications, have stated that Islam does not prohibit married couples from trying to space births or limit the size of their families. The use of specific birth control devices generally has not been addressed in religious literature. However, during the early 1990s there appeared to be a consensus among religious leaders that the resort to sterilization or abortion as a means of birth control was not permissible under Islam.

Last Updated: January 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Turkey was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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