Croatia has joined the European citizens’ initiative “My Voice, My Choice”!

In Europe, as many as 20 million women do not have access to all aspects of health care, i.e. safe and legal abortion. In some countries of the European Union, women still die today because of the ban on abortion on demand, or due to unavailability, they must use alternative ways of securing health care.

Today, a media conference was held in Rijeka, on the occasion of Croatia joining the European initiative “My Voice, My Choice”. Speaking at the conference were Petra Meterc and Tanja Matija Šević from the Slovenian March 8 Institute – an organization that coordinates the initiative at the European level, Marija Trcol and Marinella Matejčić as representatives of the My Voice My Choice initiative from Croatia. The initiative was launched by the Slovenian Institute March 8, and as many as 18 organizations from 9 EU countries joined it.

Petra Meterc from the 8 March Institute emphasized that the Institute launched this action because it is unacceptable that women in Europe are dying due to the unavailability of abortion. “It is unacceptable that in some countries of the European Union, such as Austria and Croatia, women face financial obstacles that prevent them from accessing abortion because it is not free. It is unacceptable that in many areas across Europe, such as Italy and Spain, abortion is not available due to a lack of providers. It is unacceptable that women from Poland and Malta are still dying today due to the unavailability of abortion. The right to an abortion is a human right, and access to it is basic health care”. Meterc stated that the demands of the initiative are very simple: they want everyone in the European Union to have access to safe abortion, regardless of who they are and where they come from.

This European initiative unites organizations across European borders, from different countries, i.e. Slovenia, Spain, Finland, Poland, Ireland, France, Austria, Italy, and now Croatia.

Tanja Matijašević from the March 8 Institute said that the citizens of the European Union have the right and the opportunity to make direct proposals to the European Commission and demand concrete changes. By using this opportunity, we demand that the EU enact legislation that would create a financial mechanism to help member states that voluntarily join the policy of ensuring access to health care, i.e. abortion on demand to all women who need it. It is necessary to collect one million signatures from at least 7 EU countries for this European citizens’ initiative (ECI) to present a request to the European Commission and the EU Parliament. Matija Šević emphasizes that the goal of this European initiative is to collect a sufficient number of signatures before the EU elections so that the new composition of the European Parliament can decide on this initiative at the very beginning of its mandate. Furthermore, she stated that: “Our proposal does not encroach on the national laws of the member states. The mechanism we propose requires the Commission to use its competencies to assist Member States in their activities in the provision of health services and the protection of human health and reproductive rights .”

Marinella Matejčić from the Croatian initiative said that it is important to address abortion on demand through the upcoming national parliamentary and EU elections because it is about the availability of health care, not an ideological issue. Matejčić stated that, according to the data of the European Contraceptive Atlas, Croatia is 35th out of 46 countries included in the study, which tells us that it is not only the unavailability of termination of pregnancy on request but also the prevention of unwanted pregnancies in Croatia. This is a big problem, which goes hand in hand with the neglected issue of women’s health in our country.

Croatia groups, the Center for Civic Initiatives, the Center for Education, Consulting and Research – CESI, the Association Parents in Action – RODA, Rainbow Families, Domine, Lana Bobić and Dunja Bonacci Skenderović and Pariter, and the SOLIDARNA Foundation participate in this initiative.

Marija Trcol, also from the Croatian initiative, followed up and said the National Development Strategy of the Republic of Croatia until 2030 recognized the importance of improving health care for vulnerable groups – defining it as one of the priorities in accordance with Development Direction 2: Strengthening Resistance to Crises. Strategic goal 5.5. addresses precisely the availability, quality, and efficiency of health care. However, Trcol emphasized, that in 2024, as in previous years, we will witness the increasing inefficiency of the health system and the increasing inaccessibility of health services in the domain of reproductive health. Despite this, due to a lack of transparency, the exact number of institutions that do not perform abortions is not known, and therefore it is impossible to know what the actual situation is on the ground. In 2022, 207 Croatian citizens had to seek professional abortion services on demand in Brežice, Slovenia.

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Photos: Marta Ožanić and Katarina Podobnik for Artkvart

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