Project Logo

Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude
Repression of Conscience

Midwife fired for refusing to assist in abortion

Hrvatski Ponos (Croatian Pride) Hospital,
Knin, Croatia (14 June, 2013)

Sean Murphy*

The following is an English translation (courtesy George and Suzana Kovacic) of a report in a Croatian newspaper.

Lost her job in the Knin hospital: "They fired me because I would not participate in abortions"
Slobodna Dalmacija
3 August, 2013

Doctors and nurses in Croatia may call upon conscientious objection in situations when their religious beliefs prevent them from participating in medical procedures contrary to the postulates of their faith. One such situation is the deliberate termination of a pregnancy.

The conscientious objector, however, cannot be a midwife, at least not at the general hospital "Hrvatski Ponos (Croatian Pride)" in Knin because, like Jaga Stojak, they could lose their job.

Jaga Stojak (49), after 27 years of service, of which the last 14 was spent working as a midwife in the Knin hospital, received a dismissal of her contract on June 14 of this year, because she refused to participate in an abortion citing conscientious objection. "It was not the first time when I, as a practicing Catholic, refused to participate in that procedure. There have been many discussions and meetings at the hospital because there are more midwives who share the same opinion."

"Eventually they were broken in different ways. One found employment in the infirmary, another went to Rijeka, a third somehow still resists. I insisted ... As punishment, I was moved to the first shift, which means lower wages, and I began to be harassed, humiliated, ridiculed ... despite my work and experience, they openly complained that I was not doing anything ..."

"As a result of all this work and stress I twice had to take sick leave. None of the institutions have offered help, from the Association of Midwives to the nurses' union ... nobody even bothered to respond. I've been left to myself, subjected to severe mobbing."

"I approached the former Director Dr. Oliver Ojdanic. Even with him we could not come to an understanding. Moreover, at one meeting, he openly sided with the medical staff and doctors. I will not mention her name, but I was told that I could be a hairdresser or a cook, but not a midwife if I was not willing to do such work," says Jaga Stojak.

"The midwives code is to protect the child from conception to birth and I could not keep silent. I called the physician for the private hospital services and others involved in grey economy services provided by the hospital from which there is a financial benefit. From then things became hellish. Many of my colleagues and the head nurses no longer acknowledged me, they pretended they do not see me, but I have endured because of the wonderful and honest doctors who have seen what they were doing and quietly supported me. And then on the 14th of June suddenly I was ordered to prepare instruments and participate in the deliberate termination of a pregnancy".

"In the presence of the patient, I refused. I ended up in a conversation with the director who sent me home waving some kind of legislation under my nose."

"I was mentally finished and I went on sick leave" a shaken Jaga Stojak recounted. "I do not know how I would have endured that terror without the support of my husband, Ante, who also personally spoke with the former director asking him to protect me from this persecution."

"I have lost 7 to 8 kilograms since this started. In the Travnik hospital where I worked before coming to Knin, I worked with wonderful gynecologists and nurses. Only one gynecologist was a Catholic, the rest were Muslim and no one ever said a word to me because of my refusal to participate in abortions. Indeed, we mutually respected each other."

"I will not give up the protection of my rights, not only for myself but for the other midwives who are forced to participate in the killings, and are not protected either by the chamber, the unions or the ministry. I have a right to the same conscientious objection as have doctors and nurses. I'll go to Strasbourg, if needed, but I will not give up ..."

"Let the relevant authorities instead of questioning my job duties - and never has a patient complained about me either verbally or in writing -  look at the location at the Knin hospital where they perform such surgeries. Let them come and see that 20 meters from where babies are delivered are the women who have decided to have an abortion and can hear the babies crying. Is anybody worried about that?  Whose dignity does that threaten"

Her lawyer Nada Mikulandra briefly elaborates on the case:

""The employee prepared the instruments, and then, in the presence of the patient, refused to attend the surgery because it conflicts with her religious beliefs - invoking conscientious objection." This is a summary of the reasons for dismissal of the midwife who was employed at the Knin hospital from August 1999 signed by Dr. Antonella Karačić, Director of restoration and health facilities."

"Jaga Stojak, a practicing Catholic, filed a conscientious objection to performing intentional abortions. In her name I submitted to the hospital a request for protection of labor rights when she had not yet been dismissed. In addition, we requested protection from harassment in the workplace and requested that the Director protect her against this sort of threat to her rights and dignity and that other matters that have nothing to do with the real problem not interfere with this question."

"At this point a warning of dismissal was withdrawn, she was not dismissed, but the director's mandate came to an end and he left the hospital. In the meantime, another director came, and I went on vacation. After returning to work, I have to admit that I was shocked that she was dismissed by a person who has not had any conversation with her, nor had invited her to take a stand and that she could not in the short term assess the real situation. It is interesting that the cancellation was sent while the employee was, and still is, on sick leave," said Mikulandra.


Print Friendly and PDF