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TALLINN, Estonia, February 17, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Estonian government’s Ministry of Social Affairs has admitted that the Constitution contains clauses that require the government to protect the unborn, but added that there is an “intractable moral conflict” between the right to life of the unborn child and the woman’s right to abort.

The admission comes in a letter dismissing calls for the defunding of abortion, even as the country’s abortion rate edges up to account for just over one third of all pregnancies.

Pro-life campaigners responded that the Ministry of Social Affairs, in its February 13 letter has “defined pregnancy as a disease with abortion as its treatment of choice.” They called the letter a “true example of a utilitarian worldview” that leads to the “deliberate killing of innocent people.”

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In the Ministry’s letter, it said the government bases its position on “the fact that in the Estonian Constitution, the pregnant woman’s rights to exist affects the fetus’s right to life, to bodily integrity, and to free self-realization.” A “confrontation” between these two competing rights, the letter said, is “inevitable and constitutes an intractable moral conflict.”

Varro Vooglaid, head of the Foundation and the Defense of Tradition and Family, said, “The Ministry of Social Affairs probably knows very well that deliberate abortion constitutes the intentional killing of an unborn child. However, concerning the choice of abortion, in the minds of the national health service it is in need of financial support, as if pregnancy was an illness needing the treatment of abortion.”

The letter said “termination of pregnancy is allowed to the extent of a woman’s right to free self-realization, self-determination.” However, article 19 of the Constitution, the letter continued, means that the “unborn child, as a human life, is the carrier of the right to life.”

“On the other hand, the state has an obligation according to Article 28 to provide for each person’s health. One of the public health measures is to have seamless access to reproductive health services, including safe and high-quality termination of pregnancy.”

Abortion on-demand for any reason is legal in Estonia up to the 11th week of pregnancy. It is allowed up to the 21st week if the mother is under 15 years or over 45, if it is judged to “endanger her health,” if the child is suspected of a serious physical or mental defect, or if the mother’s illness or other medical issue could hinder the child’s development.

Signed by the Undersecretary of Health, Ivi Normet, the letter added that with abortion freely available, the current practice “means about 1,583 disabilities are prevented annually.”

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Any effort to lower the abortion rate, the government said, would have to involve increases in availability of contraceptives. Currently 63.4 per cent of Estonian women use some form of contraception.

The letter also confirmed that much of the impetus for maintaining abortion is monetary, saying, “Ensuring the safe termination of pregnancy requires fewer resources from the growing existing health expenditure, compared with the much larger costs which would be incurred in women’s health, with unsafe termination of pregnancy.”

The letter is the response of the government to a petition presented as part of the EU-wide One of Us campaign. The EU campaign assigned each country to collect a specific number of signatures based on population, with Estonia asked to collect 5,000. As part of their participation, Estonian pro-family and pro-life advocates added a request that their government defund abortion. The Foundation and the Defense of Tradition and Family collected 5,385 signatures, mainly through churches.

Last year, the Foundation raised 38,000 signatures in a national campaign to stop proposals to create legal recognition for same-sex unions, the largest public response to any petition drive in the nation’s history.

Maria Madise, a volunteer with the Foundation, told LifeSiteNews that the reason for the much smaller response on abortion is that in Estonia, “abortion is in most families.” With over 1.5 million abortions having been committed in Estonia since legalization in 1955, “higher than the entire current population, most people are badly damaged by their association with abortion. There are few who have not had abortion in their lives.”

Estonia, she added, is one of the most heavily secularized countries in the world and has embraced the abortion doctrine both officially and socially. Over 66 percent of the population is listed as religiously “unaffiliated,” “other” and “unspecified.” The rest are divided, with 13.6 percent Evangelical Lutheran, 12.8 percent Orthodox, and 1.4 percent “other Christian,” including Methodists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Roman Catholics and Pentecostals.

“It’s a completely post-abortive country,” Madise said. “But homosexuality is considered a form of aggressive foreign ideology, so there was a strong reaction against it.”

One of the smallest countries in the European Union, Estonia’s abortion rate has fallen by half since reaching the staggering peak of 66.1 percent of all pregnancies in 1972, during the Soviet regime. It has fallen but still accounts for 31.2 percent of all pregnancies.

While government has dismissed their concerns, the Foundation for the Defense of Family and Tradition points out that this still means the country is “terminating” over 30 percent of its unborn population, with over 6,000 in 2012 out of a total population of only 1.26 million and 14,056 live births.  

Tiny Estonia could be seen as a microcosm of the kind of demographic free-fall that is gripping most of the rest of the post-Christian Western world, with -0.66 percent population growth rate, a median age for women at 44.3 years and a total fertility rate of 1.45 children born per woman.

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