“Unborn children – the most threatened minority in Croatia”, and “Unborn lives also matter”, could we read in particular on signs carried by demonstrators during this annual “March for life”, regularly organized in recent years in this member country of the European Union.

Many parents accompanied by their children carrying balloons joined the march.

“We support life, moral values, God-given values,” economist Maja Ivic told AFP as she took to the streets with her two children.

“All human life, from conception to natural death, must be protected,” said protester Sinisa Kubatovic, 52. For him, “abortion should be authorized only if the pregnancy seriously threatens the life of the woman”.

In Croatia, conservative groups, supported by the Catholic Church, are urging the government to limit the right to abortion, authorized until the tenth week of pregnancy.

After this period, an abortion can be performed if the health of the woman or the fetus is in serious danger, or in the event of rape or incest.

Nearly 90% of the approximately 3.9 million Croats are Catholics, and the Church remains very influential within society.

The right to abortion is more and more in the test because many doctors refuse to practice it by invoking the conscientious objection.

The case of Mirela Cavajda, 39, has shaken the country in recent days. The mother-of-one was in her sixth month of pregnancy when doctors diagnosed her fetus with a brain tumor in April.

Her request for an abortion was refused by four hospitals in Zagreb, but after public pressure a medical commission finally gave the go-ahead for the procedure on Wednesday.

“Life is something more precious, life must be respected, life is the law,” Boris Ujevic, a gynecologist at a hospital in Zagreb, told the crowd.

The Constitutional Court of Croatia in 2017 rejected an appeal by several conservative groups demanding the ban on abortion. It then also considered that the 1978 legislation was obsolete and asked for its revision.

But human rights groups fear that these changes will actually lead to more restrictions.