Croatian woman allowed to have abortion after public outrage

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By AFP  with Euronews
People take part in the "March for Life", the Croatia's fifth annual anti-abortion march, in Zagreb on May 29, 2021.
People take part in the "March for Life", the Croatia's fifth annual anti-abortion march, in Zagreb on May 29, 2021.   -  Copyright  Credit: AFP

A Croatian woman who was initially denied an abortion has now been allowed to terminate her pregnancy.

Mirela Cavajda initially had her abortion request denied by doctors, even though her foetus had developed a serious illness.

But after public outrage, the 39-year-old underwent the procedure, it was revealed on Wednesday.

The case had divided the country, where conservative groups and the Catholic Church have pressured the government to limit abortion rights.

Under the law, pregnancies can be terminated after the 10th week of pregnancy only if there are serious health threats to the woman or foetus, or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.

Many doctors have however conscientiously objected to carrying out abortion procedures under a 2003 law.

Cavajda was in her sixth month of pregnancy when a brain tumour was found in her foetus in April, and she was reportedly told that the child would have serious health problems.

She told reporters that doctors had refused to abort the foetus and advised her to go to neighbouring Slovenia.

Four hospitals in Zagreb in total had refused her request to terminate the pregnancy, Cavadja claimed. Some had reportedly refused without explanation, while others said they could not confirm the diagnosis or did not have the necessary conditions to perform the procedure.

But amid public anger, the Croatian health minister said that a health "commission has authorised the termination of the pregnancy".

"The medical and legal conditions for authorising the abortion have been met," Vili Beros told reporters on Wednesday while adding that the situation was "extremely difficult".

Demonstrations for women's reproductive rights had been planned on Thursday evening across the country.

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

In 2017, the country’s Constitutional Court court rejected a request by several conservative groups to ban abortion and ordered parliament to adopt a new law to replace outdated legislation from 1978.