Friday, 8 March 2019

Protest for Safe, Free Abortion in All Hospitals Held

ZAGREB, March 8, 2019 - On the occasion of International Women's Day, members of the Women's Network Croatia staged a protest outside Government House, demanding the right to a safe, accessible and free abortion in all hospitals.

A dozen women protesters arrived at St. Mark's Square carrying banners with messages such as "Master of her own body", "Free anesthesia", "Accessible and free abortion in all hospitals", saying that women have the right to make decisions about their own bodies and that the Church must not interfere in that right. The protesters then handed in a list with their demands to government officials.

"In a secular state the Church cannot interfere in the woman's right to decide whether or not to have children. Women in our country must not and do not want to be incubators that will have children on command," said Neva Tolle of the Autonomous Women's House and the Women's Network Croatia.

"The woman is the one to decide about her own body, she knows whether she can afford to have a child, you cannot tell her to live in "premarital purity' because that, too, is a matter of personal choice," Tolle said, stressing that women must not be called murderers and calling on the government to define, as soon as possible, a new pregnancy termination law that would be more liberal than the existing one.

She also said that the Women's Network would submit its own bill on pregnancy termination.

Tolle condemned a statement made by Health Minister Milan Kujundžić, who reportedly told a woman reporter that she should pray as prayer never hurt anyone, calling on him to step down.

Tolle also said that there must be no conscientious objectors in hospitals that were funded with taxpayers' money, mentioning as a positive example the University Hospital Centre Rijeka, which, she claimed, did not hire gynaecologists who were conscientious objectors.

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

Monday, 25 February 2019

NGO Says UN Wants Croatia to Stop Violation of Reproductive Rights

ZAGREB, February 25, 2019 - After the Roda nongovernmental organisation in November 2018 reported violations of women's reproductive rights to UN human rights bodies, based on testimonies collected in a campaign focusing on women's negative hospital treatment experiences, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights asked Croatia to urgently take action to prevent violation of women's sexual and reproductive rights.

"We are appalled by the testimonies given by women, following the launch of the campaign #BreakTheSilence in October 2018, which showed a pattern of abuse and violence against women undertaking medical procedures related to their reproductive health,” reads a statement by a group of experts released on the website of the UN Commissioner for Human Rights.

Noting that the violence ranged from surgical treatments carried out without anaesthesia to humiliation, verbal abuse and the refusal to give painkilling medication, the experts say that Croatia should adopt measures to prevent violence and insist on the accountability of those who commit it.

"We are deeply concerned about women being subjected to painful treatments without anaesthesia, including surgical miscarriage procedures, uterine scrapes, removal of placenta, stitching after birth, episiotomies being conducted against their will and disrespectful treatment of women by health personnel," the experts stress.

They note that in spite of the testimonies, some politicians and heads of health institutions have denied the allegations, questioning the credibility of the women’s stories and their perception of pain. At times, even women’s intelligence was questioned.

“A woman who is receiving reproductive health care, including giving birth, accessing medically assisted reproduction services and undergoing surgical miscarriage procedures, must have her rights respected.

“Health personnel should apply the highest standards of professionalism and ethical codes in delivering reproductive health care, and they must respect the dignity, privacy, autonomy, integrity and security of women,” the experts emphasize.

“We encourage the Government of Croatia to conduct an independent investigation into those allegations, to publish its results and to elaborate a national action plan for women’s health,” the experts conclude.

During the campaign BreakTheSilence, in only two and a half days, activists collected more than 400 testimonies of women who have experienced some kind of violence and abuse in Croatian hospitals during gynaecological procedures.

More news about women’s issues can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Opposition for Legal, Free and Accessible Abortion in Croatia

ZAGREB, January 31, 2019 - The leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Davor Bernardić, told a press conference on Wednesday that his party had sent a draft bill on the medical procedure of pregnancy termination to a 15-day public debate and underscored that abortion in Croatia had to be legal, free and accessible.

"We have witnessed individuals and political parties in Croatia advocate banning abortion and taking us back to the 18th century and SDP will stand against discrimination and reactionary forces in society," SDP's leader said.

He announced that the SDP-sponsored bill regulated the right of women to self-determination, freedom to decide to give birth to children or to abort, the right of minors and disabled persons to abortion, abortion legal time limit, the protection of health and lives of pregnant women, counselling prior to abortion, sterilisation, education for everyone, free contraception, choice between surgical or medication abortion, who has the right to perform the procedure, supervision of authorised institutions and clinics, conscientious objection, financing the cost of abortion and penalties for violation of the law.

He recalled that according to the Constitutional Court ruling the Abortion Act has to be amended by the end of February and "Health Minister Milan Kujundžić's announcement that the new bill won't be adopted within the said deadline," Bernardić said, "just shows his attitude toward the Constitutional Court and toward women's rights."

"This arrogant government obviously has no problem with not respecting a Constitutional Court ruling and it would be good for it to explain why it isn't respecting set deadlines, what does it consider to be disputable and what is the problem," Bernardić added.

Responding to reporters Bernardić said that it would "be nice if the opposition had a candidate for the presidential election and that SDP as the strongest opposition party, would have its candidate." Asked whether that might be Zoran Milanović, he said that he first needs to say whether he is willing to run for the presidency after which the party would talk about that and make its decision after the European elections.

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

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

New Abortion Law Will Not Be Adopted within Deadline

ZAGREB, January 16, 2019 - Health Minister Milan Kujundžić said Wednesday that a new abortion law probably will not be adopted within the deadline set by the Constitutional Court, adding that the deadline would be extended.

"According to information available to me, the expert commission will propose to the Constitutional Court to extend the deadline to find the optimum solution," Kujundžić told the press in Croatian Parliament.

The Croatian Constitutional Court on 2 March 2017 turned down a proposal submitted 26 years earlier by an association which had asked that the existing law regulating abortion be declared unconstitutional, and the Court has also asked the parliament to adopt within the next two years a new law regulating this sensitive issue. This means that the law should be adopted in parliament by early March.

The minister said the public would be included in the debate once the commission defines its position.

The chairman of the health ministry's task force for analysing EU member-states' legislation regulating pregnancy termination, Ante Ćorušić, said on Wednesday that the task force's proposal would not substantially differ from the solution provided in the existing legislation in Croatia.

"The proposal to be made by this task force will not substantially differ from the present law, but it will be changed to make it appropriate to present-day Croatian society," said Ćorušić after the task force's meeting in Zagreb.

A blueprint for the future law is likely to be completed in three weeks' time when the next meeting is scheduled.

The task force is charged with analysing legislative solutions of the other 27 EU member-states, on the basis of which it will put forward a proposal to the working group tasked with preparing the bill, Ćorušić said.

This is a multidisciplinary approach, including medical, legal and ethical aspects, and we need some time to study the extensive material from the EU countries, he added.

The time limit for having an abortion is likely to remain the 10th week of pregnancy as allowed by the existing law.

Counselling, which would not be mandatory, is likely to be introduced as an option before a decision on the termination of pregnancy is made.

Law expert Nenad Hlača said that the time frame for the adoption of the new law within two years as recommended by the Constitutional Court was instructive. The law professor said that this delicate matter could not be dealt with in a few months. It is already commendable that this government has embarked on this job to address this delicate matter, Hlaca said.

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

Monday, 3 December 2018

New Abortion Law to Be Postponed

ZAGREB, December 3, 2018 - Health Minister Milan Kujundžić confirmed on Monday that he would ask for an extension of the constitutional deadline for the adoption of a new abortion law because it would not be possible to adopt it by 21 February 2019, which is the current deadline.

The Constitutional Court on 21 February 2017 gave the parliament two years to adopt a new law on pregnancy termination, setting 21 February 2019 as the deadline.

"The issue is too sensitive and the deadline is not likely to be met," Kujundžić said at a conference held on the occasion of the International Day of Disabled Persons, confirming that an extension of the deadline would be sought.

"A task force is analysing the experience and practice of European and other countries and will define what is best for Croatia in line with its findings. There is no solution on this matter that can satisfy everyone," said Kujundžić.

Commenting on the case of a bribe-seeking surgeon from Split, which prompted the Health Ministry to send an inspection to the hospital where he works, Kujundžić said that he could not say anything before the inspection presented its findings.

"If what is being said is true, then it's horrible and must be condemned, and the inspection will see if aside from bribery there was also malpractice," Kujundžić said, adding that the inspection's findings would be known by the end of the week.

Commenting on media reports that the Croatian Health Insurance Agency (HZZO) had proposed that as of next year patients pay a part of the price of almost all types of insulin, Kujundžić said that there had been no discussion on such a proposal at the level of the Health Ministry.

He also commented on a two kuna increase in the price of tobacco, saying that it was due to alignment with a European directive and not his demand for a significant increase in tobacco prices. "I advocate protection of life and health, and it has been proven that a significant increase in tobacco prices results in 50-80% fewer children starting to smoke," said the minister.

For more on the abortion issue in Croatia, click here.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Pharmacists Allowed to Refuse to Issue Contraceptives

ZAGREB, November 28, 2018 - The Croatian Chamber of Pharmacists' Ethics and Deontology Commission has decided that a Zagreb pharmacist who refused to issue birth control pills to a patient did not violate the Chamber's code of ethics on contraceptives, Hina learned from sources at the Chamber on Wednesday.

In making the decision on the issue, the chamber invoked an article of its code of ethics which says that a pharmacist has the right to conscientious objection if by doing so, they do not endanger the patient's health and life.

That chamber said that it respected patients' right to be given a medicine and pharmacists' right to conscientious objection and wanted to remind its members of the importance of organising work in pharmacies in such a way to provide all patients with medicines and advice on their use.

Even though in the last five years conscientious objection was cited only two times as the reason for non-issuance of medicines in the pharmacy network, which has 1,187 pharmacies, steps should be taken to make sure that in such rare and isolated cases, patients are not denied the service of issuing a medicine, the chamber said.

Health Minister Milan Kujundžić recently commented on the case, describing it as unacceptable. He said that any patient has the right to obtain a medicine for which they have a prescription in any pharmacy and that a pharmacist "has the right to conscientious objection but not in their workplace."

Chamber president Ana Soldo said that the Chamber's Commission of Ethics was the highest body that can decide on such cases.

"They have made a decision that is in line with our code of ethics and I have nothing to add to that," she said, according to Hina.

For more on the issue of abortion in Croatia, click here.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Minister Refuses to Reveal Writers of New Abortion Law

ZAGREB, November 26, 2018 - The new abortion law is expected to be finalised by February next year, and since this is a very sensitive matter, the recently established commission will first analyse the existing legislation in European Union countries, both those in which abortion is banned and those in which it is fully liberalised, Health Minister Milan Kujundžić told Hina on Monday.

The bill drafting commission has about ten members, including representatives of the medical profession, bioethicists and jurists, who will primarily focus on the results of legislation in the EU rather than on worldview issues, the minister said. He would not reveal the names of the commission members or of the institutions they come from, citing the sensitivity of the matter.

The abortion law currently in force in Croatia was adopted in 1979. "Governments have changed without touching it. I think that the Constitutional Court ruling is right and that the law should be brought up to date. This government will take that responsibility," Kujundžić said.

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

"The legislative arrangement under which termination is allowed up to ten weeks of pregnancy is not unconstitutional. If the Parliament decided to the contrary, it would be against the Constitutional Court ruling," Constitutional Court president Miroslav Šeparović said then. He added: "I don't think that there is a constitutional right to abortion as a human right but only women's right to privacy, which includes the right to freedom of choice."

The Constitutional Court passed the ruling after throwing out a motion filed by a civil society organisation 26 years ago to declare the 1979 Abortion Act unconstitutional.

Gender Equality Ombudsman Višnja Ljubičić said that so far she had not been invited to participate in drafting the new bill, but that she expected the new law not to be restrictive on women's rights. "I expect it to retain the existing rights and possibly to be more modern in certain areas," she said, adding that the names of the members of the bill drafting commission should not be kept secret.

"Anything concerning the preparation of national legislation should be transparent. A vow of secrecy is not good in any respect and does not give a sense of security to citizens," Ljubičić said. She announced that she would ask for her office to get involved in drafting the bill by submitting its proposals and remarks.

"We don't want to act post festum, through amendments. We want to take part in policy making because we work on specific cases of human rights violations and because we receive complaints from citizens and can help improve any legal framework," Ljubičić said.

Iva Davorija of the Platform for Reproductive Rights, which brings together non-governmental organisations, said they considered it a problem that the new bill would be finalised within the next three months without the public knowing who was working on it and who was deciding on women's rights. She said that it was not clear whether the Catholic Church would be involved in drafting the bill.

For more on the abortion issue in Croatia, click here.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Anti-Abortion Marches Held

ZAGREB, May 19, 2018 - An estimated 10,000 Croatians gathered under the slogan "All human rights start with conception" and participated in a peaceful pro-life march which was held in the centre of Zagreb on Saturday morning.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

In 2017, Further Decline in Number of Births and Abortions

Both the number of births and abortions have been falling for years.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Prime Minister Ambiguous about Abortion Position

ZAGREB, April 11, 2018 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković did not answer directly during Question Time in parliament whether he was personally in favour or against the right to abortion, stating only that, in his opinion, everything should be done to avoid abortion.

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