In vitro law sparks backlash in Croatia


Lawmakers passed a bill that regulates in vitro fertilisation, spurring both public and political resistance.

By Natasa Radic for Southeast European Times in Zagreb -- 17/08/09


"I think that this law does not treat all the citizens equally," Croatian President Stipe Mesic said. [Getty Images]

According to a new In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) law in Croatia, infertility treatment will only be allowed for married couples, and those who can prove they have been in a relationship for at least three years.

The law prohibits the freezing of embryos, limits the number of fertilised eggs that can be used to three and requires donors to reveal personal information, which can be accessed when the child turns 18.

Not being able to submit eggs or sperm anonymously might drastically reduce the number of donors, who might fear a knock at their door down the road by someone claiming to be their child.

Passed by parliament last month, the IVF law spurred both a public and political backlash, as it is one of the strictest in Europe.

Concerned by the measure, Croatian President Stipe Mesic took it before the Constitutional Court.

"I have a problem signing a law that I will then challenge at the constitutional court. I think that the most controversial part of the law is the regulation that couples, who are not married, have to prove that they have spent at least three years in a relationship. It is absurd that a single person can adopt a child, while if you apply for IVF treatment you need to prove how long you have been in a relationship. I think that this law does not treat all the citizens equally," Mesic told Croatian Radio.

The case has not yet been reviewed.

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Both opposition and coalition parties alike, such as the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS) and the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS), voted against the bill, which was virtually pushed through parliament by the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).

Organisations, such as Parents in Action (RODA), a group dedicated to upholding pregnancy and parenting rights, also spoke out, calling it a "discrimination law". Member Karmen Rivoseki Simic, says RODA will back Mesic to help change the IVF law.

Sources estimate that nearly 3,000 women battle infertility annually, some of whom may seek IVF abroad if they cannot get help domestically. They would not have to travel far, as IVF rules are more lax in nearby Serbia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

IVF is the process of fertilising egg cells outside the womb. The eggs are then injected into the uterus.

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