ZAGREB, 10 May 2022 – Human Rights Ombudsman Tena Šimonović Einwalter has joined calls to ensure women in Croatia are not denied medical assistance when seeking pregnancy termination in accordance with applicable laws .
During a discussion about the treatment by Sveti Duh Hospital in Zagreb and the health system of Mirela Čavajda, a woman who requested a termination of pregnancy because the fetus was diagnosed with massive brain cancer, Šimonović Einwalter said the regulations should be interpreted taking into account women’s health and decisions. She said women should be given full information, while the system should act faster in an emergency.
Supporting the position of the Gender Equality Ombudsman, Šimonović Einwalter warned that because legal provisions are not respected in Croatia, women seeking abortions travel to neighboring Slovenia.
She said a trial board can approve a pregnancy termination at the request of a pregnant woman and that, unlike the media, the bottom line is not whether the child will be born alive, but whether the child will be born alive. It can be expected that the child will be born with serious physical or mental congenital malformations.
As for the opinion that a termination of pregnancy before the 22nd week is considered an abortion because the child cannot live, and after that it is called induced labor or feticide, the ombudsman said that the law does not specify any restrictions with regard to weeks of pregnancy in extraordinary situations.
Šimonović Einwalter said she agreed with the view that Ms Čavajda’s right to full information according to law was violated.
She drew attention to the many complaints she has received regarding access to healthcare, which points to a wider problem of insufficient information on patients’ rights. She said that the relevant authorities have a duty to find a solution to the Čavajda case and take steps to improve the healthcare system.
Speaking about the right to conscientious objection, Šimonović Einwalter noted that she repeatedly warned Sveti Duh Hospital following media reports that it refused to perform pregnancy terminations because all of its staff were conscientious objectors.