Activists rally behind Croatian woman who was denied abortion

A group of civic activists in Croatia demonstrate in favor of a woman who was denied an abortion when her fetus had serious health problems

Activists stood outside the parliament building in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, demanding that the authorities help Miranda Cavajda and ensure respect for abortion rights in the socially conservative country.

Cavajda was 20 weeks pregnant when doctors informed her that her fetus had a brain tumor and no chance of a normal life. She said doctors refused to terminate the pregnancy and advised Cavajda to have surgery in neighboring Slovenia.

A medical ethics commission is examining Cavajda’s case. Croatian media reported that the doctors said they were unsure of the rules of procedure for terminating such an advanced pregnancy.

The existing law that allows abortions dates back to 1978, when the country was part of the communist-ruled former Yugoslavia. Croatia became an independent country in 1991, and since then increasingly influential conservative groups have attempted to ban abortion.

President Zoran Milanovic on Wednesday described Cavajda’s ordeal as an example of “conservative regression”.

Activists at Friday’s protest demanded punishment for medical professionals who denied Cavajda an abortion. An open letter read at the protest said her situation “is every woman’s struggle”.

“We are sorry to live in a state that puts someone’s beliefs ahead of the dignity, health and life of women and children,” the letter read. “We are here united in solidarity.”

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