Croatia / Constitutional Court / U-I-60/1991

Applicants: Nike Karabaić, Antun Lisec from Vetovo, Hrvatski pokret za život i obitelj, Hrvatski katolički zbor "MI", Stjepan Herceg, U ime obitelji association, Saša Čajić and Daniel Majer
Policy area
Public Health
Deciding body type
National Court/Tribunal
Deciding body
Constitutional Court
Type
Decision
Decision date
21/02/2017
  • Croatia / Constitutional Court / U-I-60/1991

    Key facts of the case:

    In the period from 1991 to 2016, seven applicants, both natural persons and civil society organizations, lodged requests to challenge the constitutionality of the legislation regulating child birth decision making, which grants abortion on request during the first ten weeks of pregnancy and thereafter in the case of indications. The applicants claimed that the Act on health measures for exercising the right to free decision-making on childbirth (Zakon o zdravstvenim mjerama za ostvarivanje prava na slobodno odlučivanje o rađanju djece) is not constitutional, as Article 21 of the Constitution grants the right to life that is placed before and above all other human rights.

    Outcome of the case:

    The legislation which allows for an abortion on request during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy and thereafter in cases of medical, ethical and eugenic indications is compatible with the Constitution. It maintains a fair balance between the right to privacy of a pregnant woman and the public interest for the protection of unborn life, which is a constitutional value. The Constitutional Court ordered the legislator to draft educational and preventative measures to make termination of pregnancy an exception. The Court ordered the Croatian Parliament to enact new legislation in accordance with the contemporary circumstances and challenges within two years.

  • Paragraphs referring to EU Charter

    D. THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT’S ASSESSMENT OF THE COMPLAINT CONCERNING NON-COMPLIANCE OF THE ACT WITH THE CONSTITUTION

    40. Article 1 of the disputed Act, determining the Act’s aim and purpose, inter alia, entitles each individual with the right to freely decide on the birth of children. The aforementioned right is not absolute and may be restricted by law with the purpose of protecting health (of a pregnant women - Article 2).
    (...)
    Starting from the subject regulated by the Act, which allows abortion on request within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, the applicants consider the Act to be incompatible, above all, with Article 21 of the Constitution, "which entitles every human being with the right to life". According to the applicants, the term "every human being" includes both born and unborn individuals, whose life begins with conception. Consequently, according to the applicants, the constitutional protection of the right to life extends to the moment of conception.

    41. It appears that the Constitutional Court has been put at the centre of a controversy on which no uniform approach exists either in science, medicine, biomedicine, philosophy, religion, bioethics, law or politics, as it is apparent from the background of the pregnancy termination issue as elaborated above. The Constitutional Court is expected to resolve the controversy by determining the moment when life begins and so arbitrate between two parties, one of which considers life to begin with conception, thus putting the protection of the unborn under the scope of Article 21 of the Constitution and denying women the right to terminate pregnancy, and the other that believes life to begin at birth, thus putting the unborn beyond the scope of protection from Article 21 of the Constitution, in which case the right of the woman would prevail.

    41.1. The Constitutional Court proceeds from the view that the provisions of the Constitution should be interpreted in the spirit of the overall legal order formulated in the Constitution in such a way that the interpretation of the Constitution’s provisions rises from the entirety of relationships created by those provisions. (…)

    41.2. Furthermore, the Constitutional Court recalls that human dignity is absolutely protected, non-derogable and incomparable. In its Decision No. U-I-448/2009 et al. of 19 July 2012 (Official Gazette 91/12), the Constitutional Court found the following:
    "Article 1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (Official Journal of the European Union, C 83/389, 30/03/2010) reads: 'Human dignity is inviolable, it must be respected and protected.' In the European Union, human dignity is the first indivisible and universal value.”
    (...)


    42. Article 21 para.1 of the Constitution stipulates that every human being has the right to life. The right to life is a precondition for all other rights, since all other human rights and freedoms arise from it. The Constitution guarantees the right to life "to every human being", but does not provide a definition of (does not elaborate) the notion of a human being in the sense whether  or not it also includes, apart from already born individuals who undoubtedly have legal personality, unborn human beings.
    (...)


    44.1. The right to privacy guaranteed in Article 35 of the Constitution includes the right of each individual to free decision-making and self-determination. Therefore, the right to privacy entails the right of a woman to her own mental and physical integrity, including the right to decide on conceiving a child and on the course of her pregnancy.
    (...)


    45. In that respect, the Constitutional Court finds that the unborn human being enjoys constitutional protection within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution only to the extent to which it does not conflict with the woman’s right to privacy.
    (...)


    46 .... Consequently, the Constitutional Court finds that the disputed legal regulation did not distort a fair balance between the woman’s constitutional rights to privacy (Article 35 of the Constitution), freedom and personality (Article 22 of the Constitution) on one hand, and the public interest of protecting the life of unborn beings guaranteed by the Constitution as a constitutionally protected value (Article 21 of the Constitution), on the other.

  • Paragraphs referring to EU Charter (original language)

    D. OCJENA USTAVNOG SUDA O PRIGOVORU NESUGLASNOSTI OSPORENOG ZAKONA S USTAVOM

    40. Člankom 1. osporenog Zakona, kojim se određuje cilj i svrha njegovog uređenja, propisuje se, između ostalog, da se njime priznaje pravo čovjeka da slobodno odlučuje o rađanju djece. Pravo nije apsolutno, može se ograničiti zakonom i to radi zaštite zdravlja (trudne žene - članak 2.)
    (...)

    Polazeći od predmeta uređenja Zakona, kojim je, između ostalog, dopušten prekid trudnoće na zahtjev žene do isteka 10. tjedna trudnoće, predlagatelji smatraju da je Zakon nesuglasan, prije svega, s člankom 21. Ustava, »kojim se svakom ljudskom biću jamči pravo na život«. Polaze od toga da pojam »svako ljudsko biće« podrazumijeva kako rođenog tako i nerođenog čovjeka, a njegov život počinje začećem. Stoga se i ustavna zaštita života čovjeka proteže na trenutak njegova začeća.

    41. Čini se da se Ustavni sud našao u središtu prijepora o kojem ne postoji jedinstven stav kako u znanosti, medicini i biomedicini, tako ni u filozofiji, religiji, bioetici, pravu pa i politici, kao što je razvidno iz pozadine problematike prekida trudnoće, naprijed detaljno navedene. Od Ustavnog suda očekuje se da razriješi prijepor, odredi kada počinje život i tako arbitrira između dviju strana, one koja smatra da život započinje začećem, pa je nerođeno biće od začeća u domeni zaštite članka 21. Ustava i isključuje "pravo žene na prekid trudnoće", i one koja smatra da život započinje rođenjem, pa je nerođeno biće izvan zaštite članka 21. Ustava, u kojem slučaju pretežu prava žene.

     41.1. Ustavni sud polazi od svog stajališta da se odredbe Ustava moraju tumačiti u duhu cjelokupnog pravnog poretka oblikovanog u Ustavu tako da njihovo tumačenje izvire iz cjeline odnosa koji se njime ustrojavaju. (…)

    41.2. Nadalje, Ustavni sud podsjeća da je ljudsko dostojanstvo apsolutno zaštićeno, nederogabilno i nekomparabilno. U odluci broj: U-I-448/2009 i dr. od 19. srpnja 2012. ("Narodne novine" broj 91/12.) Ustavni sud utvrdio je sljedeće:

    "Članak 1. Povelje o temeljnim pravima Europske unije (Official Journal of the European Union, C 83/389, 30. 3. 2010.) glasi: 'Ljudsko je dostojanstvo nepovredivo. Mora se poštovati i štititi.' U Europskoj uniji ljudsko dostojanstvo je prva nedjeljiva i univerzalna vrijednost.

    (…)

    42. Članak 21. stavak 1. Ustava propisuje da svako ljudsko biće ima pravo na život. Pravo na život preduvjet je svim ostalim pravima jer sva ostala ljudska prava i slobode iz njega proizlaze. Ustav jamči pravo na život »svakom ljudskom biću«, ali ne sadrži definiciju (ne razrađuje) pojam ljudskog bića, obuhvaća li on uz rođene osobe (čovjeka), koje nedvojbeno imaju pravni subjektivitet, i one nerođene.

    (…)

    44.1. Pravo na privatnost zajamčeno člankom 35. Ustava uključuje pravo svakoga na slobodu odlučivanja i samoodređenje. Stoga je pravu na privatnost inherentno pravo žene na vlastiti duhovni i tjelesni integritet, koji uključuje i odluku hoće li začeti dijete i kako će se njezina trudnoća razvijati.

    (…)

    45. S tim u vezi Ustavni sud utvrđuje da nerođeno biće, kao Ustavom zaštićenu vrijednost uživa ustavnu zaštitu u smislu članka 21. Ustava samo do one mjere do koje se ne sukobljava s pravom žene na privatnost.

    (…)

    46…. Stoga, Ustavni sud ocjenjuje da osporeno zakonodavno rješenje nije poremetilo pravednu ravnotežu između ustavnog prava žene na privatnost (članak 35. Ustava) i slobodu i osobnost (članak 22. Ustava), s jedne strane, i javnog interesa zaštite života nerođenih bića koju Ustav jamči kao Ustavom zaštićenu vrijednost (članak 21. Ustava), s druge strane.