Croatia’s top court rejected calls to ban abortion in a landmark ruling on Thursday, following years of campaigning by Catholic Church-backed conservatives to overturn a 1970s law.
A demand to review the law allowing abortion was filed by conservative activists in the staunchly Catholic country in 1991 when Croatia proclaimed independence from the former Yugoslavia, and was renewed last year. Any restriction on a woman’s decision-making regarding her pregnancy “represents interference in her constitutional right to privacy,” the court’s president Miroslav Separovic told reporters.
The constitutional court also ordered parliament to adopt a new law on abortion regulations within the next two years, ruling that the current legislation was outdated.
It recommended that the new law include preventive and educational measures to reduce the number of abortions and clarify the issue of “conscientious objection” to performing the procedure, a claim that is now widely abused in public hospitals. The current law, adopted in 1978 when Croatia was still part of the communist Yugoslav federation, allows women to get an abortion on demand until the tenth week of pregnancy.
Separovic said that it would be “anti-constitutional” for the new law to ban abortions, and conservative Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic assured that his government would not try to prohibit them.
The issue still deeply divides the European Union member, where rights groups repeatedly warn that the right to abortion is being threatened by growing pressure from groups backed by the national Catholic Church.
They also warn that a large number of public hospital doctors are refusing to perform abortion on demand on moral grounds.
Nearly 90 percent of Croatia’s population of 4.2 million are Roman Catholics.