April 17, 2019
Monday’s edition of Tednik, a news show from the national broadcaster, reported that Croatian women have been facing increasing difficulties in finding clinics that perform abortions at home, which brings them in growing numbers across the border to Slovenia.
According to Tednik, Brežice hospital, (the first Slovenian hospital on the way from Zagreb) has seen a 25% increase in Croatians seeking abortions in the last three months.
Although the procedure is legal in Croatia, almost 60% of Croatian gynaecologists, or 186 out of 322 ,refuse to perform abortions, according to Tednik. The problem is further acerbated by the fact that nurses and anaesthesiologists are also allowed to invoke the right to object on moral grounds, which, among other things, also leads to the painful procedure often being carried out without anaesthesia.
Another reason why Croatian women prefer to travel to Slovenia is the availability of an easier method of chemically induced abortion, which is only performed at two Croatian clinics, in Rijeka and Pulj. Furthermore, the general attitude towards women who chose an abortion is helpful and supportive in Slovenia, compared to the increasingly hostile environment in Croatia with regard to women and their reproductive rights. A recent case Tednik reported on involves a Croatian woman who had been molested by a close relative and got pregnant in the process. Croatian doctors refused to perform an abortion as it would mean “destruction of evidence”. With some help of the NGOs, the woman eventually managed to get the procedure done in Slovenia.
Abortion is part of the Slovenia’s health insurance plan, but not for Croatian citizens, who also have to pay for it in Croatia, if they’re lucky enough to find someone who is willing to perform it at all. Travelling to Slovenia is also not an option for everyone, as some people cannot afford to, while others do not want others to perhaps learn of the true purpose of their cross-border journey.
While Slovenia also allows gynaecologists to refuse to perform an abortion on moral grounds, only 10 out of 296 have invoked this right.
The legislation Slovenia and Croatia inherited from Yugoslavia was liberal with regard to family planning. However, following the independence of both, Slovenia was mostly led by liberal governments, while Croatia turned right, which pushed for a Catholic re-sacralisation of society.
A work group of the Croatian Parliament is currently drafting a new abortion legislation. The draft was supposed to be finished this March, but it wasn’t. The position of the current Health Minister Milan Kujundžić, who is supervising the drafting of the new law, suggests that we might see even more Croatian women coming to Slovenia for abortions in the future. Mr. Kujundžić believes that life begins with conception, that abortion is an act of evil, and that Church should be included in the debate over women’s reproductive rights.