Health Minister Milan Kujundzic said on Wednesday that a new law on abortion probably would not be adopted within the deadline set by the Constitutional Court, adding that the deadline would be extended.
“According to information available to me, the expert commission will propose to the Constitutional Court to extend the deadline to find the optimal solution,” Kujundzic told reporters at the Croatian Parliament.
In March 2017 Constitutional Court had turned down a complaint submitted 26 years earlier by a conservative association which had asked that the existing law regulating abortion should be declared unconstitutional.
In its ruling the court said that although an outright ban on abortion would be unlawful, the issue should be more clearly regulated, and asked the Parliament to adopt a new abortion law. This means that the new abortion bill should be drafted and passed in parliament by early March 2019.
However, the commission tasked with drafting the new law, which includes ten health experts and obstetricians, was only formed in early November 2018. The names of the experts appointed to draft the new bill was made public soon after, with some sections of the media slamming the choices as it includes at least several gynaecologists who are known to refuse to perform abortions as conscientious objectors.
Croatia had first legalised abortion in 1952 when it was part of Yugoslavia. The law later went through several alterations, until the latest version adopted in 1978 which allowed abortion as an elective procedure within the first ten weeks of pregnancy. Although abortion is also possible after that period, the law stipulated that such cases require approval by a commission of physicians.
However, the issue of conscientious objectors has stirred much debate in recent years, as according to some estimates some 70 percent of all physicians refuse to perform abortions on moral grounds.
Health Minister Milan Kujundzic added on Wednesday that the public would be included in the debate on the new law once the commission of experts selected by the ministry defines its position on the matter.