Anti-abortion NGO Elu Marss to get €170,000 in state support

NGO Elu Marss protest.
NGO Elu Marss protest. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The Ministry of the Interior has signed a contract requiring it to pay non-profit anti-abortion organization Elu Marss ("March of Life") €170,000, allocated as part of the so-called protection money scheme, on the condition that activities directly targeted at banning abortion in Estonia are not funded.

Last autumn, the Riigikogu allocated a total €6.4 million of protection money, allocated to each represented party for use in funding regional and social projects of their choice. The corresponding ministry was supposed to transfer the money to each project.

As of this September, Elu Marss was one of two non-profit organizations still to receive their funds.

Ministry of the Interior advisor Marten Lauri said that the subsidy regulation states an application must be directly related to national strategic goals, and as the Riigikogu didn't see any such goal, the ministry needed to prolong negotiations. 

Elu Marss was registered in July of 2021, but the non-profit organization notes that it was operating as an association as early as 2019, providing counselling services to parents-to-be and families with children. In 2020, the association organized an anti-abortion protest, which wended its way through the streets of Tallinn's Old Town.

The organization has ditched abortion ban campaigns

"During the proceedings of the application, Elu Marss has set aside its primary goal of using the state budget's support to completely exclude abortion," Lauri said.

The ministry signed the document of transferring the money on Friday, though the association's representative hasn't signed the document yet. "The contract will enter into force when both parties have signed it," Lauri said.

"The association states in its application that it wishes to use state support to develop cooperation between Estonian and overseas Christian communities and organizations," he added.

Elu Marss stated in its application that: "Our vision is of an Estonia as a sustainable nation state, one where there is a positive net population growth, where the concept of family is honored and lifestyles are child-friendly, where there are strong marriages, strong and sustainable family relations, communication between generations, cooperation culture, which stands for considerate discussion."

The ministry sets the condition for the support that the funding can't be used for activities, which aim is to ban abortion. The non-profit organization doesn't mention banning abortion but brings out that the number of abortions needs to be reduced in Estonia and the undergoing project funded by the subsidy should help reduce the number.

Lauri said it was important to fixate the term in the contract because initially, the association had their wish to ban abortions brought out in the application. 

"Even though the organization has neglected the initial goal to use state budget support to exclude abortion entirely, then the ministry considered it important to fixate a point in the contract that the subsidy can't be used for funding activities, which aim is directly targeted to banning abortion," Lauri said.

The association is to organize 19 public events in a year

The association is primarily planning a communication campaign to support family values. For this, €50,000 is used from the state subsidy for printing articles, posters and producing shows and videos.

Elu Marss is planning to use €25,000 on organizing 10 public events; the money is to be used for paying for the artists and technology and rental of rooms. They are planning to organize two public events in Tallinn and smaller trainings and discussion events are organized across Estonia.

The association is planning to purchase video, sound and lighting equipment for €25,000. 

The most amount of money will go for covering workforce expenses. This will take up around €59,000 for an 18-month period. Three employees will be hired - a project manager, media manager and community work coordinator.

The general costs will come to €12,000.

The project should last until the end of 2022 according to the application, which means that the said activities should be finished by that time. 

The state protection money (Katuseraha), or roof money as a literal, though no more appealing, translation, sees funds distributed to all parties represented at the Riigikogu, in proportion to that representation.

The Reform Party has long been an opponent, referring to the scheme as a type of corruption, aimed at greasing the wheels of the state budget process, which coincides with the issuing of protection money each autumn.

The state budget bill itself passes around as late in the year as it can before the Riigikogu breaks up for Christmas, ahead of the year it refers to.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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