The Slovakian Government is pushing for a new, more restrictive law on abortion in the country just weeks after promising the Church more state funding.
Driving the news
As Slovak news agency TASR reports, two of the three ruling coalition parties, the Slovak National Party (SNS) and Smer-SD, are preparing a draft bill that would reduce from the current twelve to six or eight weeks the time a pregnant woman has to procure a legal interruption to her pregnancy.
“The bill will be discussed by the coalition, we want to take into account the fact that the number of abortions is declining because of proper use of contraception and at the same time we want to prevent arbitrary abortions”, said SNS spokesperson Zuzana Skopcova.
“The unborn foetus in the mother’s body enjoys legal protection and we must deal with the current legal situation”, the spokeswoman added.
Coalition partner Most-Hid doesn’t want to change the law, however.
“Most-Hid is fundamentally opposed to calculated raising of such issues that are particularly sensitive to society. Also with regard to the fact that the number of abortions in Slovakia has been declining for a long time, we would prefer a fair society-wide debate over submitting legal norms in the pre-election period”, said Most-Hid spokeswoman Klara Debnar.
To make changes to the abortion law before the 2020 parliamentary elections, then, the SNS and Smer-SD need the support of other parties such as the far-right anti-abortion People’s Party – Our Slovakia (LSNS) or the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH).
A key ally in the fight for this support will be the country’s Catholic Church.
The Church stands to receive from 2020 an increase in state funding from the current 48 million to 52 million euros per year after the successful negotiation of a new Church Financing Act.
The proposed legislative changes would tie Church funding for the first time to the number of believers in the country, rather than to the number of priests.
The number of people who declared themselves to be Catholics in the 2011 census will serve as the measure for funding.
But the draft law stipulates that Church funding will only be moved up or down if the number of Catholics increases or decreases by more than 10%.
Why it matters
The new proposed Church financing law in Slovakia would amend the current legislation that dates from 1949, during Czechoslovakia’s Communist dictatorship.
Separation of Church and state has often been talked about since the Velvet Revolution of 1989, but has never become a reality.
Critics say the latest changes to Church funding – which could be approved by Parliament as early as September – are being rushed through.
One reason for the haste is that the ruling parties fear heavy losses in the 2020 elections.
Another is the rapidly declining influence of the Church in the country, which fears a dramatic drop in the number of Catholics in Slovakia’s next census, and hence a drop in state funds.