Croatians Demanded This Woman Be Allowed to Have an Abortion, and It Worked

The woman learned at 20 weeks pregnant that her fetus had an “aggressive” brain tumor.

Croatians Demanded This Woman Be Allowed to Have an Abortion, and It Worked
A woman holds a sign reading “The church out of the mother’s vagina” during the protest at the main square in Zagreb on May 12, 2022. Photo:Denis Lovrovic (Getty Images)

A Croatian woman who’d been denied an abortion was able to get one after thousands protested in several cities across the country, according to the Associated Press and the AFP.

The woman, Mirela Čavajda, said she learned at 20 weeks pregnant that her fetus had an “aggressive” brain tumor that would severely limit its functioning—if it survived the pregnancy. Čavajda, who is 39 and already has one child, said four different hospitals refused to terminate the pregnancy and told her to go to neighboring Slovenia instead.

Abortion is banned in Croatia after 10 weeks of pregnancy—with exceptions for serious health threats to the pregnant person or fetus, or in cases of rape or incest. But, the AP reports, doctors in the highly Catholic country often refuse to honor these exceptions.

Čavajda told the AP that the ordeal isn’t just stressful but dangerous. “Why should I keep waking up or going to bed wondering if he had died, whether I’ll get blood poisoning or not?” she said. “The worst is yet to come for me.”

Rallies were held across Croatia in solidarity with Čavajda, demanding respect for a woman’s right to choose. At a protest in the capital of Zagreb, one speaker said: “Let’s be furious and scream until the system provides the health protection we deserve!” Protesters also shouted “Enough!” and carried banners that read, “Woman’s toughest decision is not yours.”

The AFP reports that, following the protests, the Croatian health minister said a health commission “has authorized the termination of the pregnancy.”

No one should need to protest in order to get healthcare, but in our messed-up world, this is a rare example of an abortion protest achieving some measure of justice. Yes, a 2016 women’s strike in Poland stopped legislators from passing an abortion ban, but lawmakers instead challenged a 1993 law that allowed abortions in cases of severe fetal impairment. Poland’s high court struck down that law in October 2020, thereby banning abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and risk to the life of the mother. Sadly, massive protests since then have not changed anything, even after multiple Polish women have died after being refused abortions.

While it would be nice to think the nationwide protests in the U.S. set for May 14, would convince the Supreme Court not to overturn Roe v. Wade, I’m not holding my breath.

Prove me wrong, Sam Alito.

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