Abortion in Croatia
Abortion in Croatia has been a regulated medical operation since 1952, restricted variously with the age of the pregnancy, the age of the woman, and the opinion and consent of medical professionals involved.
Yugoslavia, of which SR Croatia was a part, had legalized the practice in 1952 based on a medical, eugenic or a legal indication. In 1960, a social indication was also allowed. In 1969, a rule that a commission's approval was required for the termination of pregnancies within the first 10 weeks – was rescinded. This series of measures did not reduce the total abortion rate at the time, but maternal morbidity and mortality related to abortion declined significantly.
Based on a provision in the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution, on 21 April 1978, the "Act concerning the medical measures for materialization of the right to freely decide on the birth of children" was passed in SR Croatia. This abortion law was not changed when Croatia achieved independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, although there were proposals by right-wing parties for tightening the conditions for legal abortion.
In recent years there is an ongoing debate about right to conscientious objection. Critics say that this rule made abortion hard to obtain in some areas, while the proponents argue that every gynecologist has a constitutional right to refuse performing or taking part in the procedure. In November 2014, Ministry of Health announced it will make abortion available in all public hospitals. In case that all gynecologists declare their conscientious objection (which was the case in 5 public hospitals in 2014), the hospital will have to hire an external associate willing to perform the procedure.
Abortions can only be performed by a physician in a hospital with a department of obstetrics or gynaecology, or in another authorized facility. Doctors have the right to conscientious objection. Women under 16 must have parental authorization. Past the first 10 weeks, abortions must be approved by a Commission of First Instance, consisting of a gynaecologist, another physician, and a social worker or registered nurse. The commission can choose to approve the abortion if it is medically necessary to save the woman's life or preserve her health, whether during pregnancy or delivery or after delivery; if the child would likely be born with a serious congenital defect; or when the conception results from a criminal act, including rape and incest. The Commission's decision may be appealed to a Commission of Second Instance, whose decision is final. This procedure does not apply in situations where the woman's life or health is in immediate danger or the abortion has already started.
As of 2010, Croatia had 4.7 abortions per 1000 women of childbearing age, lower than in most European countries. The highest percentage of abortion was recorded in 1980s. In 1989, 49% of all pregnancies ended with an abortion. During the Croatian War of Independence and after it that percentage fell dramatically and still kept falling in the following years.
A poll from 2008 showed that 50% of respondents do not approve abortion in the case in which a couple does not want more children. That was increased opposition compared to the same poll from 1999 when only 40% opposed. However, this poll was criticized by some for being suggestive.
In 2011, Catholic bishop Valter Župan publicly called for abortion to be banned. In response, Nova TV had an opinion poll conducted, in which 67% of respondents in Croatia said they believe that the current abortion law should not be changed, while 23% supported a ban on abortions. Support for a ban was higher among women, and in the regions Slavonia and Dalmatia.
According to another survey in 2013 which was conducted among 1500 young people in Croatia (in the age between 14 and 27), 38.9% of the respondents said it should be legal, 28.7% said only medically warranted abortions should be allowed, 20.0% were unsure, and 12.4% said that abortion should be completely illegal. At the same time, more than half of the respondents did not advocate sexual abstinence. This discrepancy was likely the result of a confusion among the young people caused by the opinions of the Catholic Church and their own sexual needs that arise well before they are ready to enter marriage.
A survey from 2014 showed that 18% of respondents 'strongly support' the right to abortion and 16.8% 'tend to support'. In the same time, 24.7% said they were 'strongly opposed' and 14.5% 'tend to oppose'. 24.9% said they were indifferent on the issue.
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