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Contentious Croatian abortion goes ahead after medical officials step in | Croatia



A Croatian woman who was denied an abortion although her foetus had serious health issues has undergone the procedure, it was revealed on Wednesday.

The case sparked nationwide outrage in the EU country where Catholic church-backed conservative groups aspire to curb the right to abortion, which is legal until the 10th week of pregnancy.

After that period, it can be performed if the health of the mother or foetus is seriously jeopardised, as well as in cases of rape or incest.


But abortion is becoming more restricted as rising religious pressure sways doctors to refuse it on moral grounds.

Mirela Čavajda’s foetus was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour in late April, in the sixth month of pregnancy.

Doctors told the 39-year-old, who already has one child, that the foetus would – if born – either die or have serious defects, she told local media.

They advised Čavajda to seek help in neighbouring Slovenia.


Meanwhile, four public hospitals in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, refused to carry out the abortion without explanation or after saying they could not confirm the diagnosis or lacked the necessary conditions.

But Croatian health minister Vili Beroš said on Wednesday that a medical “commission allowed the termination of [Čavajda’s] pregnancy”.

“The situation is extremely difficult,” as the MRI scan of her foetus’s brain showed, he told reporters. That is why the commission estimated that “both medical and legal preconditions for the approval of abortion have been met”, he said.

The case angered members of rights groups and many other people in the Balkan country.


On Thursday, rallies in support of Čavajda are due to be held in Zagreb and several other cities.

Nearly 90% of Croatia’s population of 3.9 million are Roman Catholic and the church remains immensely influential.

In 2017, the country’s top court rejected calls from church-backed conservatives for a ban on abortion.

It also ordered the parliament to adopt a new law on abortion regulations and ruled that the current one, dating back to the 1970s, was outdated.


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