First steps of CEC4Life in Estonia at the March for Life in Tallinn.
On August 30th, 2020 the March for Life took place in Tallinn, Estonia after 22 years.
Estonia is a small country in Northern Europe with ~1.3 million inhabitants. Estonia suffered under Soviet occupation between 1941-1991. In 1955 abortion was legalised in the Soviet Union, including Estonia. In the western world legalization of abortion took place many decades later (Roe vs Wade in USA 1973).
Here are some facts; in the 1970-s about 41,000 babies were killed through abortion in one year, also 100 babies were aborted for every195 babies who possessed the right to be born. Back then our population was about 1.5 million! Since then the number of abortions has steadily decreased, resulting in pro-choice people accusing their opponents of merely “knocking down already open doors.”
However, according to Eurostat, in 2016, Estonia was at the top of the list of European countries, with 17.1 abortions annually. Estonians like to compare themselves to their neighbours: Latvia was ranked eight, in Finland 6.4 and in Germany 4.4. For every 1000 successful births, 444,6 babies lost their lives through abortion! Last year 3741 abortions were undertaken: 312 babies every month – more than ten babies per day. Yet, no one raises their voice in anguish.
So how much then is human life worth in Estonia? If a woman has health insurance (about 90% is required because we have full cover public health insurance) then the abortion pill can be purchased for 18 EUR, and surgical abortion for 41 EUR. If one doesn’t have health insurance then a surgical abortion costs 268 EUR. So the price of human life ranges between 18-268 euros!
It is time to do something about this situation. Since early spring CEC Churches in Estonia have been praying that the culture of death would finally end and the Culture of Life would be established. In August we found out by coincidence a March for Life will take place in Tallinn. At first we had hesitations about participating. There was a fear that one right-wing party of political persuasion may hijack the event. Once we found out that organizers were people from another local church, along with further consultation with Bishop Elmer Belmonte and Father Terry Gensemer a decision was made to participate. Very quickly (and frankly at the last minute) both T-Shirts and appropriately worded posters were prepared. Nine people from St Stephen’s and St Barnabas church gathered in the afternoon of 30th August in the medieval section of Old Tallinn along with other participants who also marched for life. Not everyone from our churches were able to attend. Some people had prior engagements, others had a few understandable hesitations due to the situation with COVID. Also, let’s be honest – not everyone had the courage enough to be the “voice for the voiceless,” not yet anyway. Finally, about 400-500 people from different churches and from one political party marched through Tallinn, carrying posters, banners and balloons, shouting “every life is sacred. All life is Sacred.” The invitation to participate and support the march was sent to every party in parliament but only one party responded.
So, the march was followed by various speeches and music in Tallinn Freedom Square. Several keynote speakers were mothers, amongst them some who were politicians. Then the Chairman of the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia, Minister of Finance Mr Martin Helme as well as Archbishop of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Rev Urmas Viilma spoke up in support of unborn babies. Then music was performed by two different worship groups.
Before the event began we were a bit concerned about the message of protecting unborn life would be received by the public. We have heard Father Terry several times speaking about “being pro women-pro babies.” The Estonian Council of Churches (which is an Ecumenical Council consisting of ten different churches, CEC among them) worked out a system for crisis pregnancy counseling in cooperation with our Health Insurance Foundation and Estonian Gynaecologists Society fourteen years ago, so that every pregnant woman along with their families would have the right to free counseling. We prayed that the message will not be grounded in accusations or condemnation, but rather about forgiveness, hope and support to women who face these difficult situations. There were disagreements between the different organizers of the March for Life, with regard to the message which will be sent out, but thanks be to God, it all went well! It was the first March for Life after so many years. We definitely felt the Lord’s hand and His abiding protection over that event.
There was quite extensive media coverage about the event, but most of the stories were seasoned with reservation and caution due to the delicate, political nature of this subject. Some channels persisted with the idea that the event was largely an instrument of the national conservative party.
We want to thank our bishop Elmer Belmonte, Father Terry Gensemer and Mrs Sarah Neely for all their support and encouragement, special thanks to Sarah for her very much appreciated practical advice! We thank ICCEC HOST for your total support, Camille and Denel Santiago, and Lisette Eriste for working with the T-shirt “design department” and Joosep Mattis Eriste and Marek Kodasma who prepared the posters. Thanks to each and every one of you who prayed about the event and for our “pro-lifers.” Most of all – we are thankful to our Lord, the Giver of Life!
Non nobis, Domine!
Author: Regyta Eriste, RN
Wife of Fr Thomas Eriste; mother of four children,
St Barnabas Church, Pärnu, Estonia
Joosep Mattis Eriste, HOST Estonia,
St Barnabas Church, Pärnu, Estonia
 For every 1000 woman at peak fertility.
 Note: surgical abortions are made in the women’s section of our hospital wards, as we dont have special abortion clinics.
 for up to twelve months following birth.