19:54 / 06.05.2022.

Author: Katja Miličić

Health Minister weighs in on case of woman seeking to end pregnancy because of brain tumor in baby

Activists protest in front of the Sabor demanding access to safe and legal abortion for women in Croatia

Activists protest in front of the Sabor demanding access to safe and legal abortion for women in Croatia

Foto: Patrik Macek / Pixsell

Health Minister Vili Beroš has weighed in on the case of a pregnant woman whose baby has been diagnosed with a brain tumor and the mother is seeking to terminate the pregnancy. 

Six months along in her pregnancy, Mirela Čavajda only recently discovered that her baby was suffering from an aggressive brain tumor. During a routine pre-natal exam, she was told her that the child was unlikely to survive after birth or if it did it would have severe medical problems. Čavajda sought to terminate the pregnancy but three hospitals refused to perform the procedure. Their refusal is now under review to determine if the hospitals acted in accordance to the rules.

Terminating a pregnancy after 10 weeks in Croatia requires the approval of a professional panel. The panel that considered Čavajda’s case did not make a determination and left the case up to a next-tier panel. Minister Beroš says that the he was told by members of the initial panel that the baby's tumor could be treated.

"In their professional opinion, neurosurgical treatment is possible in this case, providing everything goes well during birth,” Beroš said, adding that doctors needed to precisely determine the type of tumor in question.

Čavajda remains determined to end the pregnancy. Her lawyer, Vanja Jurić, argues that she meets the criteria required by law to do so.

"A woman has the right to terminate a pregnancy if medical tests show that the child will be born with extreme physical or mental defects. In this case, we have at least four diagnoses from different institutions that indicate this will be the case. This means that the legal requirement has been met fully. Everything else that the minister has said is irrelevant in the eyes of the law."

Abortion in Croatia in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy is legal but an increasing number of doctors are refusing to perform the procedure on the basis of their personal beliefs, which they have the right to do under rules governing their profession. Termination of a pregnancy after 10 weeks requires the approval of a panel that includes doctors but is not limited only to medical professionals.

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