"Brave SISTERS" - 2021

our first year of activism

On the International Safe Abortion Day, the 28th September 2020 the feminist and humanist organization Center for Civil Courage launched its project “Brave Sisters – Women’s Support Network for Abortion Rights”.

We trust women. We can proudly say – 50 educated women from all over Croatia psychologically and morally support women in terminating pregnancies. Our Brave Sisters are always available by phone; our Brave Sisters will provide answers to medical and procedural questions, encourage women, and accompany them to medical examinations and abortion itself.

As a rule, two Brave sisters support a woman in need. The founder of the network Nada Peratovic (picture), takes the woman’s call or e-mail, gives her the first substantial information and provides supporting conversations. And then, if necessary, she connects the woman with Brave sister, who accompanies her to the hospital and brings her back home after the medical procedure.

Simultaneously, we created the website with crucial information about abortion procedures (surgical or medical), information about our services, relevant articles, and information about sexual and reproductive rights. We includea direct contact form and a WhatsApp application on the site – so women can reach us night and day.

When elected political representatives and, unfortunately, the gynaecological profession itself (59% of them, in public hospitals, are refusing to perform an abortion on religious grounds) are undermining the reproductive rights of women in Croatia, the Brave Sisters provide unconditional support and protection to a woman with an unwanted pregnancy in understanding her reproductive rights, thus creating a welcoming, supportive environment for women and playing an essential role in de-stigmatizing abortion

By 2020, over 130 women from Croatia and abroad have applied. Many women who have not been included in any activist work so far have reached out to us. After the selection process, we proceeded with our education cycle for the first generation of Brave Sisters from 7th March until 26th March 2021. The educational program encompassed seven online lectures about basic medicine conception and abortion, basic knowledge about psychological assistance, and basic knowledge about the feminist movement. We included various expert lecturers such as female gynaecologists, psychologists, academic experts, and members of the Center. Introduction lecture was conducted by founder and director of Women on Waves and Women on Web, dr. med. Rebecca Gomperts.

Till the 31st December 2021, we provided service and support to twenty-eight (28) women.

Our services include:

  • – providing medical, science-based, and procedural information,
  • – debunking false information from websites of anti-abortion organizations,
  • – giving information about the best caring nearby hospital, 
  • – giving moral and psychological support
  • – accompanying women to the medical procedure itself

 

Every woman who asked for our help has her story and reasons to terminate a pregnancy. We had a diverse profile of women in need. Young students whose parents didn’t know they were going to abortion, women from women’s safe houses, foreigners who live in Croatia, women who had to have an abortion because of the fetus’s malformation, and mothers who were again pregnant. We encountered domestic violence and other forms of violence against women; in that case, we cooperated with local women’s organizations dealing with domestic violence and relevant institutions.

In one case, when a woman found herself alone in front of the hospital because a close person who was supposed to accompany her at the last minute was prevented, the (first) Brave Sister managed to find a company in less than half an hour, who rushed to the hospital. At the same time, the (second) Brave Sister secured a friend’s apartment for a woman as a temporary resting place after the medical procedure. This feminist solidarity was quick and immediate and brought four women from different cities and organizations together. It gave this project a unique dimension. By bringing together women in difficult situations with activists from other women’s organizations, we seek to help women beyond our original mission.

We want to describe the two different cases, which is especially dear to our hearts and for which we decided to extend our initial support for abortion to our new project, Guardian – support for women in overcoming toxic or violent relationships, as follows:

  1. A young woman who was a victim of many years of severe partner violence (and never had the sincere support of her family) is now under our protection. We followed her during the abortion and then supported her psychologically and legally in her decision to divorce. Empowered by our support, the woman soon found a job and prepared a new home for herself and the children. We are in constant telephone contact, and we jointly agree on her every further step towards independence and a dignified life without violence. One of the Brave sisters invited her to her summer house to spend a few carefree days with her children, away from the violence and humiliation.

  1. The following case is a woman who was a victim of human trafficking. She managed to escape from the perpetrator and return to her family in Croatia. Unfortunately, she was pregnant, and a hospital in Croatia falsely advised her about her right to terminate a pregnancy on demand. By postponing medical examinations, she was brought herself to a date when legal abortion on demand was no longer possible. They mockingly “congratulated” her that she would give birth now, even though she was ready to take her own life at the very thought. Her fate and the heartless behaviour of the hospital staff aroused resentment in us – on the recommendation, we contacted a women’s organization in the Netherlands that mainly helps women from Poland and reported her to a clinic that performs abortions in the second trimester. (In the Netherlands, abortions on request are allowed until the end of the 18th, i.e. sometimes the 22nd week of pregnancy). Two women from our network accompanied the young girl and her older sister on that journey. On the day of the procedure, one Brave Sister was allowed to be in the clinic with the young woman, translating the doctor’s instructions to her, calming her in an unfamiliar environment by holding her hand. Both women’s organizations have shared the costs of terminating abortions, flights, and hotels – international women’s solidarity at its best! After the violence and institutional discrimination she has survived, the woman now has a second chance for a new life.

In order to help our women’s network to continue to support and accompany women, we would like to ask you for a donation – since all Brave Susters work on a voluntary basis in the network, the donations are now only used for the costs we incur. We will keep you updated on everything. We thank you for your solidarity, also on behalf of the women who we will support and accompany.

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