New Croatian Government to Ban Freezing of Embryos?

By 2 January 2016

An early policy change by the new Croatian government concerning the freezing of embryos?

One of the first moves of the new Croatian government could be the ban on freezing embryos in the process of artificial insemination. That was indicated by Ante Ćorušić (HDZ), the likely health minister in the new government. The freezing of embryos was introduced in 2012, as one of the first post-election moves by then health minister Rajko Ostojić (SDP), who fulfilled the demands of numerous infertile couples, reports Novilist on January 2, 2016.

Four years ago, Ćorušić strongly opposed the introduction of the method that allows couples to freeze surplus embryos up to five years, which increases the chances of successful birth. "Thirty percent of the embryos perish. Who will decide, out of ten which survive, which are viable and which are not? There are medical biologists who on the basis of some assumptions say 'this one is fine' and 'this one is not'", Ćorušić said and explained that the best is the old method of ovarian stimulation, with two embryos and the maximum of two eggs.

The Roda Association has warned that going back to old methods would deny the chance to many infertile couples to become parents. The Association is dissatisfied even with the existing, liberalized law, which allows for the maximum of 12 fertilized eggs. According to the group, due to long waiting lists and other problems, the freezing of embryos procedure is used by too few couples in Croatia. One of the problems is the fact that Croatian Health Insurance Institute pays for only six such procedures per couple.

Dozens of Croatian couples therefore go to Prague, Maribor and other foreign medical facilities for medically assisted reproductive treatments which give them better chances for pregnancy. The reduction of existing rights would be a step back for Croatia and would increase the number of those who have to take out loans in order to pay for expensive procedures in foreign clinics.

In Croatia, there are currently about 8,000 frozen embryos. The Roda Association suggests that these embryos should be donated, while their opponents, mainly coming from the ranks of various Catholic associations, want to stop the freezing of embryos, arguing that each embryo represents a unique life. The existing law gives the right to each couple to decide, in accordance with their own worldview, whether they will freeze their embryos or not. At the largest hospital in Zagreb, only five percent of patients have refused to freeze the maximum of 12 eggs, while ten percent have refused the freezing altogether.

Concern over the possible reduction of rights of couples to assisted reproductive methods which exist in most European countries has been expressed by women rights associations as well, including the Women's Network of Croatia which fears that Croatia could once again become one of the countries in Europe with the most stringent laws.