CROATIA – New group starting to support abortion access in 2021

As women in Croatia encounter even greater difficulties in obtaining access to terminations of pregnancy, feminists are launching a new project to help them exercise what often seems a disappearing right.

According to Nada Peratovic, a lawyer and women’s rights activist, the biggest obstacle to women exercising their right to abortion is conscientious objection in the gynaecological profession, which has been allowed since 2003. Based on the 2019 findings of two journalists, Danka Derifaj and Masenjka Bacic, 186 of 322 specialist doctors in 27 public hospitals across Croatia where abortion are supposed to be provided refuse to conduct them on the basis of conscientious objection.

Everywhere women look, it seems, they encounter anti-abortion propaganda, vigils, unscientific claims about abortion, and pressure to change their minds. Lack of access to reliable and supportive information on where to find an abortion is one of the worst issues. At least medical abortion pills are available via internet sources.

In March 2017, a Croatian Constitutional Court ruling obliged the country’s parliament to pass a new abortion law within two years, noting that it was not possible to ban terminations. However, the parliament did not respect that decision. Miroslav Separovic, President of the Constitutional Court, said that any new law must not be more restrictive than the existing one, dating from 1978

That is why Peratovic and an NGO, the Center for Civil Courage, have launched a new project,
called “Hrabre sestre” (Brave Sisters). The aim is to establish “a network of women in Croatia who will provide support to women who want an abortion… Many Croatian women are forced to have unregistered terminations in private clinics, even in private apartments, or travel to Slovenia,” Peratovic said.

Over 80 women from all parts of Croatia, some from abroad, many who were not previously activists, have already expressed a wish to participate in the project, which will open next year. With the Brave Sisters, the “feminist struggle for women’s reproductive rights in Croatia has taken on a new, more comprehensive form where we spin webs of solidary”, Peratovic said, the fight for women’s rights must continue, she added. “We must not neglect the loud, and no less important, political advocacy of the right to safe, free and legal abortion. Women are not incubators, but thinking human beings, she said. “Their body belongs to them, to no one else.”

SOURCE: Balkan Insight, by Anja Vladisavljevic, 1 December 2020 ; VISUAL