Croatia: Assisted reproduction law liberalized

Opposition from Church, conservatives

13 July, 18:01

(ANSAMed) - ZAGREB, JULY 13 - Parliament today approved a new version of the assisted reproduction law, guaranteeing the right to assistance to all couples unable to have children naturally, including unmarried ones, as well as single women.

The measure, which passed by an 88-vote majority on 151 seats, expands the existing law, which is among the most liberal in Europe because it allows for freezing embryos as well as sperm and eggs. But the law still explicitly bans assisted reproduction for lesbian couples.

The law favors the use of sperm and eggs from the couple as a first option, but allows for external sperm and/or egg donors in cases where the couple's own are not viable or to avoid transmission of hereditary diseases. It also allows for embryo donations. Embryos can be frozen for 5 years in specialized centers, and for an additional 5 years on the couple's request.

A maximum of 12 eggs can be artificially fertilized, and a maximum of 2 embryos can be implanted in the woman's body per procedure, which can be repeated a maximum of 6 times.

Surrogate motherhood is still banned. The law also calls for parents to inform artificially conceived offspring of their origin once they come of age, including the identity of their biological donors. Some opponents of this measure argued it will limit potential donations, especially from men.

The new measures were voted against by center-right parties, and was opposed by most religious organizations. The Croatian Episcopal Conference called the new law ''profoundly immoral and inhumane, because it will dissolve the fundamental values of family and marriage.'' Christian Croatian bishops said freezing embryos ''does not guarantee life to people conceived in this way, but rather sentences them to death.'' Damir Jelic, vice president of the Croatian Democratic Union, the biggest opposition party, compared the new law to ''the human tragedies of the Holocaust and the crimes of the Communist regime.'' ''No one who feels one or more measures of the new law are unethical is forced to undergo them,'' the government said in its defense. ''We must give couples who want children but are unable to the opportunity to choose, and to be assisted in their choice by the public health system.'' One in 6 couples in Croatia have trouble conceiving, according to Health Ministry data. (ANSAMed).


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