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Debate rekindled in Croatia after doctors deny woman an abortion

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By AP  with Euronews
A police officer stands guard in front of women's rights activists during an anti-abortion march in Zagreb in May 2021.
A police officer stands guard in front of women's rights activists during an anti-abortion march in Zagreb in May 2021.   -   Copyright  DENIS LOVROVIC / AFP, FILE

Activists in Croatia have rallied in support of a woman who was denied an abortion despite her foetus having serious health problems.

Demonstrators have protested outside the parliament building in Zagreb to demand that abortion rights are respected and that the woman is supported.

Miranda Cavajda was more than 20 weeks pregnant when doctors found that her unborn child had a brain tumour and no chance of a normal life.

She has claimed that doctors refused to terminate the pregnancy and advised her to seek the procedure in neighbouring Slovenia instead.

The case has rekindled a years-long debate about abortion in Croatia, a Catholic country where abortions are legal after the 10th week of pregnancy only if there are serious health threats to the woman or foetus.

On Wednesday, Croatia's president Zoran Milanovic described Cavajda’s ordeal as an example of “conservative regression”.

In an open letter, activists have also called for the medical professionals who denied 39-year-old Cavajda an abortion to be punished, saying her situation “is the fight of every woman”.

“We are sorry we live in a state which puts someone’s beliefs before the dignity, health and life of women and children,” the letter read. “We stand here united in solidarity.”

A medical ethics commission is currently reviewing the case.

The existing Croatian law that permits abortions dates back to 1978 when the European Union country was part of the former Yugoslavia.

Croatia became independent in 1991 and since then influential conservative groups have tried to get abortions banned.