Croatians battle over conscientious objection and abortion

By Michael Cook

Supporters and opponents of abortion in Croatia are at loggerheads over conscientious objection. One wants patients’ right to abortion strengthened; the other wants the conscientious objection rights of doctors and midwives to be protected.

Health Minister Milan Kujundžić – who is also a gastroenterologist — seems to have having a two-way bet by urging compliance with existing legislation without taking sides.

“Anything that is in contravention with ethical and moral principles deserves condemnation,” Kujundžić said.

At the centre of the debate is a Dubrovnik woman who had an abortion procedure without anaesthesia because the anesthetist refused to participate. Dr Kujundžić said that hospitals should call upon more compliant doctors when a colleague refuses on conscience grounds.

Croatia’s abortion legislation was inherited from its days under Communism. Dr Kujundžić says that new abortion legislation is being drafted. But abortion supporters complain conscientious objection is making abortion impossible; that the process is too slow; and that he is stonewalling.

For reasons which are also disputed, the number of abortions performed in Croatia have fallen steeply since 1993, after the country split from the Communist federation. An estimated 60% of gynecologists refuse to do abortions. In 1993, there were about 25,000 abortions; in 2017, only one-tenth of that figure, 2,416. Abortion supporters say that the Catholic Church is exercising an unholy influence upon the issue.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge where this appeared and is reposted with permission.