“Catholic Church Will Not Write New Abortion Law”

By 27 March 2018

Shortly after creating a storm by saying that the Church will have representatives in a working group for drafting the new abortion law, the health minister apparently changes his mind.

Representatives of the Catholic Church and church organisations will not participate as members of the working group for the adoption of the law on abortion, stated Health Minister Milan Kujundžić. He claimed that his statement on Monday that everyone would be involved in the preparation of the law, including the Catholic Church, was incorrectly interpreted, reports Večernji List on March 27, 2018.

“In a democratic society, whenever a law is being prepared, the public debate can include all stakeholders and every individual, including the Church. This does not mean that representatives of the Church will sit on the committee, and it's certain they will not,” said Kujundžić.

Speaking later at a press conference, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that the law would be drafted within the legal deadline, adding that he had not yet discussed the composition of the working group with Minister Kujundžić. “The custom is for relevant ministers to propose working groups for certain laws so that we'll talk about this topic,” said Plenković.

It is still not known who will be members of the working group whose establishment has been announced by the minister. In any case, physicians believe the focus should be on experts, and the minister seems to agree.

“Primarily, members of the working group should be gynaecologists. In other European countries, such committees include representatives of politicians, health experts and law experts. After they submit their final proposal, the draft can be presented to representatives of all interested associations and possibly to the Church. These decisions are made by religious communities just in those countries which are based on Islamic law,” said gynaecologist Vesna Stepanić, a member of the expert group on abortion of the European Society for Contraception and Reproductive Health, which is the competent European body for overseeing the issue.

Parliament has to adopt a new abortion law because the Constitutional Court made a decision last February that abortion is constitutional, but that parliament has to pass a new Law on the Termination of Pregnancy within two years. Therefore, the minister now has just one year to propose the law. Its aim will reportedly be to identify educational and preventive measures, so that the termination of pregnancy becomes an exception. Minister Kujundžić must form a team of medical, legal and bioethical experts who will initially gather legislative solutions and practices from other EU member states.

These aforementioned practices vary significantly among different European countries, even in EU member states. Sweden and the Netherlands have liberal laws, while Poland has a harsh and restrictive law whose adoption was not stopped even by mass protests. The law almost wholly bans abortions.

Translation from Večernji List (reported by Ivana Rimac Lesički).