21:52 / 11.05.2022.

Author: Katja Miličić

One woman’s difficult case reignites abortion debate

Opposition parties on left propose new abortion bill

Opposition parties on left propose new abortion bill

Foto: Patrik Macek / PIXSELL

The case of a woman seeking to terminate her pregnancy after the baby was diagnosed with a brain tumor has reignited the debate over abortion in Croatia. 

Mirela Čavajda is six months pregnant and her request to terminate her pregnancy was turned down by four hospitals in Zagreb. She took her case to a medical panel and was again denied the procedure. On Wednesday evening, Health Minister Vili Beroš said that a second-tier panel of specialists had approved the procedure and if no hospital in Croatia would perform it, treatment abroad would be covered by state health insurance.

Earlier on Wednesday, seven opposition parties from the political left and center backed a proposal for regulating proposed by the SDP. They support a woman's right to choose and insist that the state must ensure women have access to this medical procedure.

"It's a well-known and sad fact that the health care system in Croatia is not equally accessible to all women. This illustrates how women are treated by the health care system. They pay their fair share but cannot receive the care and treatment they need although it is what they are entitled to under the law. It's time to say enough! We need a new law,” said SDP MP Sabina Glasovac.

"We are offering a clear alternative. We are offering a solution to what we have now and that's lawlessness,” said Ivana Posavec Krivec of the Social Democrats.

Independent MP Hrvoje Zekanović, a conservative, is opposed to the bill.

"All of a sudden the progressives have appeared like hyenas. It is as if everyone can smell blood. I cannot understand this drive, desire, and will to invalidate someone's life," Zakanović said.

President Zoran Milanović commented on the Čavjada case on Wednesday, underscoring its complexity.

"Yes, it is a woman's right but even the most liberal laws say it is a woman's right up to a certain week of pregnancy. After that it isn't. However, cases like this one are upsetting. There will be protests in Split and Zagreb tomorrow. Politicians must pay attention. Questions like how sick is this child? Does it have the right to be born? Is it better that it isn't born? These questions trouble me more as I age. But what I do know is that nobody should be a victim because no gynecologist in our public hospitals wants to do this difficult job, while the state sits back and does nothing," Milanović said.

The Croatian Chamber of Medicine, the national organization of medical professionals, has issued a statement arguing that this particular case has nothing to do with the right of doctors to refuse to perform abortions on the basis of their beliefs. The organization says it opposes what it says are attempts to end conscientious objection, which it cites is enshrined in European law and Croatian law. It allows doctors to protect their personal integrity, Chamber says. The right to abortion and the right of doctors to object on the basis of conscience should not be mutually exclusive and health care institutions should find a solution to accommodate both sides.

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