Cases of structural violence

against women who seek for an abortion

5.5.2022. Zagreb, Croatia

Despite the law, medical workers in Zagreb refused the termination of pregnancy for a fatal fetal anomaly to a 6 months pregnant woman.

After a routine prenatal check-up, Mirela Čavajda was urgently sent to an MRI – she was told that her baby could have a birth defect. She had to wait nine days to get the first diagnosis – the baby had a brain tumor. She had to wait another week for another doctor to give the same final diagnosis. The baby’s head was 10cm big and the tumor was 6cm x 4cm.

The doctors told her that there are no chances for the baby to survive – it will either die in her womb or during birth. In the unlikely event that the child will survive, half of the baby’s brain will be removed, and the child would end up in a vegetative state.

The doctors wished her good luck and sent her home to wait for her baby to die. Unofficially some doctors advised her to go seek help in the neighbouring country – Slovenia. The termination of the pregnancy costs 5000 euros in Slovenia.

Doctors lied to her that it is illegal to terminate a pregnancy after ten weeks. Under Croatian law from 1978, it is allowed to terminate the pregnancy after ten weeks with the authorization of a commission in special circumstances such as birth defects.

Mirela was informed about the law after consultations with her lawyer, they sent all the medical documentation needed to all hospitals in Zagreb that can perform the procedure but for three days none of them answered.

She was not warned about the possibility of the tumor spreading to her body and the possibility to get sepsis if the fetus dies in her womb. “They were only thinking about the terminally ill baby, nobody cares about me.” – she said while thinking about her other child at home. She has the procedure scheduled in Slovenia but she will fight legally to try and have the procedure performed in Croatia to help other women that may find themselves in this situation. 

The biggest OB/GYN hospital in Croatia – Petrova denied the request for termination of Mirela’s pregnancy. This is the fourth hospital that denied abortion in the 26th week despite the fetus having serious health problems. The commission stated that they won’t “induce a premature birth” even though termination of the pregnancy was requested. The reason for this is, they say, that only after the birth they can determine what kind of formation is in the skull of the fetus.

Only hospital “Sv. Duh” confirmed that the baby will not survive and that the pregnant woman has the right to terminate the pregnancy. However, they claim that they can’t perform it because they don’t have the professional staff nor the necessary conditions. Because all the doctors in “Sv. Duh” have been using conscientious objection to abortion for years, they claim they never performed a late-term abortion. It seems that Mirela will have to search for medical help in the neighboring country of Slovenia. The termination of the late-term pregnancy costs 5000 euros there. According to the health regulations, if a treatment is not available in Croatia, it is possible to request from Croatian Health Insurance Fund to finance it. However, there is a possibility that Croatian Health Insurance doesn’t recognize the termination of the pregnancy as a treatment.


The case of Mirela Čavajda and the right of women to termination of pregnancy in Croatia