Friday, 21 February 2020

Opposition Seeks Inquiry Commission for Organisations That Dissuade Women from Abortion

ZAGREB, February 21, 2020 - Twenty-two MPs on Friday tabled a proposal to set up an inquiry commission into the financing, work and influence of organisations which consult pregnant women in Croatia in order to prevent quackery and disinformation about abortion.

Independent MP Bojan Glavašević, Sabina Glasovac (SDP) and Vesna Pusić (GLAS) told the press that according to reports in Croatian and foreign media, so-called pregnancy crisis centres were spreading in Europe and Croatia as part of a global coordinated project aimed at disinforming women about their reproductive rights and health as well as introducing additional obstacles to abortion.

Those centres are organisations that try to dissuade women who are thinking about aborting by providing incorrect information and advice on reproductive health and medical services, which denies women the legal right to medical services and information based on scientific facts, they said.

There is evidence that some of those pseudo-medical institutions are receiving more and more funds from foreign organisations and governments, notably from the US as part of its policy to deny the right to abortion around the world, the three MPs added.

Such practice is dangerous to women's reproductive rights and health, as warned by the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights in a letter to the European Commission, the MPs said.

They recalled that under recommendations by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women published in July 2015, Croatia should stop retrograding with regard to sexual and reproductive health and that this included access to safe abortion.

The three MPs said the organisations that offered reproductive health advice and spread disinformation were exempt from mandatory oversight for institutions offering medical advice.

The proposal was signed by MPs from GLAS, IDS, HSS, HSU, Bridge, SDP, SDSS, SNAGA, Democrats, New Politics and independents Glavašević and Marko Vučetić.

More news about abortion rights in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Abortion Is Legal in Croatia But Neither Accessible nor Free

ZAGREB, February 5, 2020 - Social Democrat parliamentarian Sabina Glasovac, who on Wednesday outlined the SDP-sponsored bill on medically assisted pregnancy termination procedures, said that in Croatia abortion was legal but it was neither accessible nor free.

Insisting that the proposal made by this strongest opposition party did not promote abortion, Glasovac said that abortion was often the last solution for women, and therefore the state should do everything to provide necessary health protection for women opting for abortion.

She criticised the government for not doing anything about this topic, although a two-year deadline to upgrade the abortion legislation had expired.

On 2 March 2017 the Constitutional Court delivered a ruling obliging the Croatian Parliament to pass a new abortion bill within two years, noting that it was not possible to ban pregnancy termination.

The SDP demands that all public hospitals should provide abortion procedures free of charge.

Glasovac noted that currently costs for an abortion ranged between 1,800 and 3,500 kuna.

She said that some public hospitals did not provide the procedure at all, due to the freedom of conscience clause whereby medical staff do not give certain medical services for reasons of religion or conscience.

The SDP-sponsored bill envisages penalties for medical institutions that refuse to perform abortion.

The SDP has proposed that the period in which women can have an abortion be increased from 10 to 12 weeks from conception and that minors aged from 16 to 18 be allowed to have an abortion without their parents' permission.

The SDP also proposes that the cost of an abortion, sterilisation and contraception should be fully covered by the Croatian Health Insurance Fund (HZZO).

More abortion right news can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Around 5,000 Participate in Zagreb March for Life

ZAGREB, May 25, 2019 - Around 5,000 people rallied in downtown Zagreb on Saturday for the fourth March for Life, and 13 protesters against the march were arrested for trying to block the passage of the marchers by sitting down on the street.

The event was held under the slogan "Let us protect the most endangered minority in Croatia - unborn children" in support of the view that life begins with conception.

While walking towards St. Mark's Square, where the parliament and government headquarters are located, the marchers encountered groups of protesters against the march, who carried banners with messages reading "Legal and available abortion", "Mistress of her own body", "Young people are leaving because of you", "Life after life" and "We demand free abortion".

Several thousand people gathered also in the coastal city of Split for the third March for Life.

The marchers were carrying banners reading "Choose life! Your mother chose it too", "She can do great things... because she was allowed to be born - Equality for all women from the moment of conception", "How much does an abortion cost? A human life", "Human rights start when human life begins", "You are pregnant, you need help, get in touch with us".

The Split marchers said it pained them to see laws that allowed abortion and that they wanted unconditional protection of human life from conception to natural death.

"Let us give all women the possibility to freely have children, to not fear for their jobs. It is horrible that a 21st century woman who wishes to have more children must worry if she will be able to raise her children and provide for them," said Mario Vuković, one of the organisers of the Split march.

More news about the abortion issue in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 24 May 2019

We Can! Coalition Says March for Life Tramples over Women's Rights

ZAGREB, May 24, 2019 - The March for Life tramples over women's rights with support from state and church, and its taking place on electioneering ban day favourises all extreme right wing parties, the European election candidates of the coalition comprising the We Can! platform and the New Left and ORaH parties said on Friday, calling on voters to march to polling stations on Sunday to defeat fundamentalism.

Speaking at a press conference in front of a banner saying "March to the polling stations, defeat fundamentalism!", they called on voters to be on "the right side of history" in the European Parliament elections on Sunday.

New Left candidate Rada Borić said "tomorrow again there will be a march against the lives of our sisters, daughters and mothers," and that it was clear that the March for Life tramples over women.

"The so-called March for Life is supported not only by the church but the state too. We are here because we know that tomorrow a concert will be given here by a person who doesn't keep his fascist iconography and fascist views secret, and we know that his performances are banned in Europe," Borić said about a concert which the singer Marko Perković Thompson will hold in St. Mark's Square on Saturday as part of the March for Life.

Responding to a question from the press, Borić said the support of the state and the church to the march was obvious. "The president will receive the marchers today," she said, adding that President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović did not receive those who had been for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, although the ratification had been in the government's programme.

More news about the abortion issue can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

March for Life Held in Rijeka, Osijek

ZAGREB, May 18, 2019 - Several hundred people took part in a March for Life in downtown Rijeka on Saturday held under the motto "Let's protect unborn children, the most endangered minority in Croatia".

Organisers from the Malaika Association said the March for Life was a peaceful walk by citizens to underline the importance of supporting life as man's fundamental right.

Barbara Brezac Benigar said ahead of the march the participants believed life began at conception and that all human rights began then as well. "We are defending those unborn lives... Today we are here as the voice which wants to defend human freedom for those who can't do it themselves," she said.

Shortly after the march started, about ten women activists stood in the walkers' way carrying a banner which security immediately removed. The activists were then escorted away by the police.

Another march, called the March for Freedom, began nearby at the same time as the March for Life, organised by Citizens of Rijeka, an initiative of several civil society organisations.

A March for Life was also held in the eastern city of Osijek, the first to take place there. Organisers said they wanted to underline the need to protect unborn children as the most endangered minority in Croatia.

With this march, we wish to protect life, legally and socially, from its beginning, because the right to live is a fundamental human right and from the right to live stems every other human right, march coordinator Lidija Blagojević said, adding that "science and all schools of medicine in Croatia agree that life begins at conception."

The president of the "In the Name of the Family" association, Željka Markic, said the goal of the March for Life was the social, legal and every other protection of life, from conception to death.

She said it was necessary to amend laws and step up adoption procedures.

More news about the abortion issue can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Fourth Walk for Life to be Held on Election Silence Day

ZAGREB, May 3, 2019 - The fourth national Walk for Life, Family and Croatia will be held in five cities this year – on May 25, electoral silence day, it will be held in Zagreb, Split and Zadar and a week earlier it will be staged in Osijek and Rijeka, the coordinators of the Walk for Life initiative said on Friday.

The event will be held under the slogan "Let us protect the most endangered minority in Croatia – unborn children".

Referring to the decision of the State Election Commission (DIP) to greenlight the event, the coordinators of the Walk for Life initiative said that they did not see anything contentious about the date of the walk and stressed that they would not be sending any political messages.

The national walk for life has been held every year since 2016 in the largest cities and it usually draws several thousand participants. This year, Osijek and Zadar have joined the initiative.

Andreja Kotnik of the Walk for Life initiative said that they supported life from conception to natural death, noting that two in three abortions were due to low living standards or social pressure.

The coordinators said that their initiative was a civic one, that they did not wish to send any political messages and did not support any slate or political campaign for EU elections, to be held in Croatia on May 26.

DIP said earlier that the event was not in violation of the electioneering ban but advised its participants to respect the rules on electoral silence.

Last year's Walk for Life was attended, among others, by European Parliament member Marijana Petir and member of the Croatian Parliament Zlatko Hasanbegović, who are running in the upcoming elections for the EP.

Asked if they expected Karlo Ressler, the lead candidate on the ruling HDZ party's slate for EP elections, who used to walk for life, to attend this year's event, the coordinators of the initiative did not answer, saying only that all wishing to come were welcome.

More news about the abortion issues can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Anti-Abortion Walk Not in Violation of Electioneering Ban

ZAGREB, April 25, 2019 - The State Election Commission (DIP) on Wednesday said that the "Walk for Life", an anti-abortion march to be organised by a civil society group on Mach 25 in Zagreb, Split and Zadar, is not in violation of the electioneering ban to be in force on March 25, the day before elections for the European Parliament, but that candidates running in those elections who will participate in the march have to respect electoral silence rules.

DIP recalls in a statement that it does not have any legal power to ban public gatherings, including the Walk for Life.

It underscores that electioneering begins on the day when slates are made public and ends 24 hours prior to election day, when the media blackout period begins and lasts until 1900 hours on election day.

At the coming European Parliament election, the blackout period will last from midnight May 25th to 1900 hrs May 26th.

During the blackout period "a ban shall be in force on any form of electioneering, the release of any estimates of election results or of early, unofficial election results, photographs by public media outlets, or of lead candidates' statements and interviews and their quoting." Any violation of the electioneering ban is subject to a fine.

"Consequently, the Walk for Life does not constitute a breach of electoral silence, however, election participants who will possibly attend the march are obliged to respect the relevant rules," DIP underscored.

The Movement for a Modern Croatia on Tuesday asked DIP to ban the May 25 pro-life march because it believes that the event will serve to promote some of the candidates running in elections for the European Parliament.

More news about the abortion issue in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

NGO Wants to Ban Anti-Abortion Protest Ahead of European Elections

ZAGREB, April 23, 2019 - The Movement for a Modern Croatia on Tuesday sent a request to the State Election Commission (DIP) to ban an anti-abortion march on 25 May, the day before the EP election, when electioneering is prohibited throughout Croatia.

The movement, which is also running in the elections to be held on 26 May in Croatia, believes that the planned pro-life march, which is organised by the civil society group "Walk for Life", will serve to promote some of the candidates for the EP elections on the day when electioneering is banned.

The ban on electioneering goes into force at midnight on Friday (before an election Sunday) and lasts until the closure of polling stations at 1900 hrs Sunday. According to DIP's explanation, the ban refers to electioneering communication disseminated through a means such as a broadcasting station, radio station, cable television system or satellite system, newspaper, magazine, periodical, billboard advertisement, or mail as well as the Internet and social networks.

The movement asks DIP to make sure that conditions are equal for all candidates in election races.

The civil society group "Walk for Life" has recently announced that it will stage marches in Osijek and Rijeka on 18 May and in Zagreb, Split and Zadar on 25 May, when electioneering is banned.

The Movement for a Modern Croatia says in its request that a peaceful walk for life can be held any week after the elections for the EP rather than on the day before the elections.

Some of the conservative candidates for the EP elections are believed to be close to organisers of the pro-life marches, and therefore the Walk for Life events are perceived as an opportunity for their election campaign.

More news about the abortion issue in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Right to Conscientious Objection to Abortion Burning Issue in Croatia

ZAGREB, March 27, 2019 - Health Minister Milan Kujundžić on Wednesday called for compliance with the legislation when it comes to honouring the right to conscientious objection concerning the issue of abortion, while at the same time that procedure should be made available.

"Anything that is in contravention with ethical and moral principles deserves condemnation," Kujundžić said, and commenting on the case of a woman in Dubrovnik who underwent an abortion procedure without anaesthesia due to the anaesthesiologist’s refusal to participate in the procedure, the minister said that the hospital should have engaged other doctors in such cases when their colleagues invoke the conscientious objection clause which allows them to refuse to participate in the termination of pregnancy.

Asked by the press when a new abortion law could be prepared, Kujundžić said that the law would be prepared but that there were no deadlines for its adoption. "Currently, we are thoroughly analysing the international practice," he added.

Opposition member of parliament Mirando Mrsić today accused the government of ignoring deadlines set by the Constitutional Court for the preparation of legislation on pregnancy termination. Mrsić said that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković is "a political coward".

The party called Strength (Snaga) has sent an open letter to Minister Kujundžić urging him to protect patients' rights in cases when hospital employees invoke conscientious objection clause to refuse to participate in abortions and assisted reproduction.

This party insists that the situation with medical staff invoking the right to conscientious objection has become untenable.

The party calls on the minister to clarify ambiguous rules about who could invoke that right and in which conditions that could be done so that patients' rights are not affected.

The open letter was prompted by reports that a great number of medical staff, notably anaesthesiologists and midwifes, refuse to participate in certain procedures, invoking their right to conscientious objection.

According to a report, every second midwife would like to invoke that right if the clause about that matter was more clearly defined in the legislation on midwifery.

The party asks the minister to provide information on the exact number of employees in the health sector and about a rate of conscientious objection.

More news about health sector in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Pametno Party Proposes Ban on Pro-Life Prayers Outside Hospitals

ZAGREB, March 12, 2019 - The Pametno party on Tuesday sent a letter to local legislatures in 29 towns proposing that pro-life prayer groups be banned from assembling within 150 metres of hospitals and health institutions.

Such assemblies target women who come to hospitals and health institutions to seek advice on medically assisted reproduction or pregnancy termination. They are disturbing for patients, especially for women who are already traumatised by their situation, this non-parliamentary party said in a statement.

"All citizens must have free access to health institutions without fear of persecution or public condemnation," the party said, citing Article 11 of the Public Assembly Act that bans peaceful assemblies or public protests in the vicinity of hospitals.

In order to avoid misinterpretation of the term "the vicinity of hospitals", Pametno suggested that local legislatures define a no-assembly zone.

The party called for the protection of the rights of women and patients and of the right of hospital staff and citizens who visit hospitals for whatever reason not to be disturbed.

The proposal was prompted by the "40 Days for Life" initiative whose campaigners have begun prayer gatherings outside hospitals in 29 towns across the country during Lent, praying for "God's mercy and grace for all those involved in the sin of abortion."

More news about abortion issues can be found in the Politics section.

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