An anti-abortion/pro-life non-profit organization is the largest single beneficiary of so-called 'protection money' from the three coalition parties this year, and will be receiving €141,000.
A total of around a million euros is to be granted to around 75 religious-based associations under the scheme this year, in comparison with about one percent of that total going to an animal rights organization, from the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE), and €70,000 summed to the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit), an integral part of Estonia's national defense and consisting of unpaid volunteers.
The group, MTÜ Elu Marss ("march for life") has been in existence for about four months and during that time has organized one anti-abortion march, which took place in late August in Tallinn, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Monday evening.
AK reports the NGO, which says its mission is to boost civic society, has one board member, who organized August's march.
Abortion was legalized in Estonia fairly early on in the Soviet era, with the law tweaked following independence in 1991.
Abortion on-demand for any purpose is permissible before the end of the 11th week of pregnancy, and up to the 21st week inclusive for women whose pregnancy endangers their health, in the case of severe physical or mental defects or if the woman has health issues which could hinder a child's development. The 21st-week rule also applies to pregnancies among those younger than 15 and older than 45.
Reform refrains from 'protection money' scheme
"Protection money" (Estonian: Katuseraha, literally "roof money") is doled out ahead of the Riigikogu passing of the state budget for the following year, which generally takes place in December, and as such could be seen as greasing the procedural wheels.
Parties pick causes which they see as beneficial to society when apportioning the money.
The Reform Party has long opposed the practice as a type of corruption, and does not distribute protection money, however.
The three coalition parties, Center, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa, are this year giving out protection money jointly rather than separately as before; its second largest gift is to Türi rural municpality, towards a "creative house" to be built there (€120,000), followed by €75,000 to a Russian Orthodox church in Jõhvi, for constructing, furnishing and equipping a Sunday school.
Religious organizations do well again this year
The three parties are also granting €50,000 to the Estonian Council of Churches (Eesti Kirikute Nõukogu), an ecumenical media organization.
Churches had traditionally been recipients of Isamaa's "protection money" in the past, though with the joint issuing this year it is less clear which party supports which projects; Center traditionally draws a lot of support from the Russian-speaking population in Tallinn and in Ida-Viru County towns such as Jõhvi.
While Reform refrains from making use of "protection money", the other opposition party, SDE, is participating again this year, with its largest sum being €21,000 in support to a cyclists' union, followed by €18,000 to help facilitate ice-rink sports, such as curling, in schools, €12,000 to a child's music studio and €10,000 to the animal welfare association the Estonian Animal Defense League (Eestimaa Loomakaitse Liit, link in Estonian).
Defense League gets €70,000
Reform's deputy leader Maris Lauri said Friday that rather than distributing the money piecemeal, the entire coalition's amount as a lump sum (€6,400,000) could be more effectively deployed.
SDE's sum totaled €300,000.
Another significant beneficiary of Center/EKRE/Isamaa funds is the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit), which will be getting €70,000, along with a pensioners association and a union of tenants (€50,000 each).
The full list of "protection money" recipients (in Estonian) is available at the bottom of the article here.
Prime Minister: I do not support an abortion ban in the Republic of Estonia
Speaking on Vikerraadio's "Stuudios on peaminister" show on Tuesday afternoon, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) discussed the subject of giving money to the MTÜ Elu Marss.
He said: "As long as the Center Party is in government, we will by no means support an abortion ban in Estonia. I do not support an abortion ban in the Republic of Estonia."
Editor's note: This article was updated to add Prime Minister Jüri Ratas' comments.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Helen Wright