"Human Rights Ombudswoman, Tena Simonovic-Einwalter, joined calls to ensure that women in Croatia are not denied medical assistance when requesting a pregnancy termination in accordance with the applicable laws," state agency Hina informed the public on Tuesday.
During a discussion on the treatment by Zagreb’s Sveti Duh Hospital and the healthcare system of Mirela Cavajda, a woman who has requested a pregnancy termination because the fetus has been diagnosed with massive brain cancer, Simonovic-Einwalter said that the regulations should be interpreted by taking into account women’s health and decisions. She said that women should be provided with full information, while the system should act faster in emergencies.
Supporting the position of the ombudsman for gender equality, Simonovic-Einwalter warned that because legal provisions are not complied with in Croatia and women seeking an abortion go to neighboring Slovenia.
She said that a first-instance commission can approve a pregnancy termination on request by a pregnant woman, and that, contrary to media reports, the key fact is not whether the child will be born alive, but whether it can be expected that the child will be born with serious congenital physical or mental defects.
As for the view that a pregnancy termination by the 22nd week is considered an abortion because the child cannot live, and after that, it is referred to as an induced birth or feticide, the ombudsman said that the law does not specify any restrictions with regard to weeks of pregnancy in extraordinary situations.
Simonovic-Einwalter said she agreed with the view that the right of Mrs Cavajda to full information in accordance with the law has been violated.
She drew attention to numerous complaints she has received regarding access to healthcare, which indicates a wider problem of inadequate information about patients’ rights. She said that the competent authorities have a duty to find a solution to the Cavajda case and take steps to improve the healthcare system.
Speaking of the right to conscientious objection, Simonovic-Einwalter noted that she has repeatedly warned Sveti Duh Hospital following media reports that it refuses to perform pregnancy terminations because all its staff are conscientious objectors.