We have reported in detail on the success of pro-life efforts in Poland. In our April 2000 issue we detailed how the number of abortions in Poland, which averaged 150,000 to 180,000 a year under the Communists, dropped to 151 in the year 1999 and 138 in 2000. Poland stands out like a shinning beacon, for no other nation has been able to do this.
No other nation? Well, Croatia is rapidly catching up to Poland’s pro-life stature. Croatia was the northern part of Yugoslavia and is 90% Catholic. To the east is Serbia, which is heavily Orthodox. The population is Muslim in the south and southwest. Perhaps, because of religious differences, these three areas are essentially separate national units and are rapidly becoming officially separate nations. Our interest is in Croatia, the crescent shaped nation that was the northern third of Yugoslavia.
During the cold war, Yugoslavia was not subject to the intense Communist domination, exploitation and religious persecution that the other iron curtain countries were. It was Communist, but it remained a bit of a bridge between the East and the West. So, while it also had its secret service agents, there was a bit more freedom than in the rest of Eastern Europe.
On our first visit to its capital, Zagreb, 20 years ago, Mrs. Willke and I were followed, our hotel room was bugged and there were observers in the audiences we lectured to. Our message then was totally non-political or we would not have been allowed in. We spoke in the field of sex education and pro-life. Weve been back on two occasions since and are pleased to tell you that the West has come to Croatia. Its people are intensely nationalistic and quite religious.
There has been a strong pro-life movement in Croatia. Among its leaders are Marijo and Darka Zivkovic and Dr. Anton Lisec. They have lectured extensively and persistently throughout the nation, spreading the pro-life ethic wrapped in a Christian message.
The invasion by Serbian forces and their ultimate expulsion produced a surge of nationalism and patriotic support, some of it tied into their Catholic beliefs.
In 1987 there were 48,608 legal abortions. By 1990, as the Communist influence drained away and religious and pro-life preaching was able to become more prominent, the number dropped to 38,644. By 1995, there were 14,282 abortions and in the year 2000, it was 7,500. Phrased another way, the abortion rate has dropped from 100 to 15.
In 1990, 13.5% of babies born were the third or more child in the family. By 1997, 25% of all children were the third or more. The newborn infant mortality for every 1,000 births in 1980 was 20.5. In 1999, it had dropped 7.5. What are some of the reasons for this drop? There were serious educational efforts in Croatia even during Communist time. Their Family Center printed and distributed about two million leaflets and brochures on family life, marriage and protection of the unborn. In addition they used films, slides and books and there were numerous regional, national and international conferences organized. The Catholic hierarchy has always been very upfront on these issues. If a bishop spoke four minutes on national TV, he spent one minute pleading for the rights of the unborn. The government has been most cooperative. Encouraging births has been a specific effort. After 1996, every woman, after the birth of her third or following child, now receives three years of monthly support payments.
Marijo and Darka Zivkovic are part of the staff of the Family Center in the capital city of Zagreb. They say, “We hope and expect that, with additional efforts by all concerned people and institutions, it will be possible to accomplish further positive developments. We hope this will ultimately bring Croatia to an abortion-free society; a society in which all killing of the unborn will be illegal and illegal abortions will be rare. We also hope that Croatia will develop into a child-loving society in which the prevailing size of an average family will be three, four, or even more children.”
Well said, my friends. You’ve certainly done an extraordinary job to date. We will wish you well and will keep watching.