SAINT MARIN (AP) – Residents of San Marino voted overwhelmingly to legalize abortion on Sunday, rejecting a 150-year-old law that criminalized it and making the little republic the last Catholic-majority state to approve the procedure in certain circumstances.
Some 77% of voters approved a proposed referendum calling for abortion to be legal in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, according to official reports broadcast on San Marino RTV. Abortion would also be legal beyond this point if the woman’s life is in danger or her physical or psychological health is threatened due to fetal abnormalities or malformations.
The “yes” winners, the Parliament of San Marino must now draft a bill to legalize the procedure. The referendum turnout was 41% in the microstate of 33,000 people surrounded by Italy.
San Marino, one of the oldest republics in the world, had been one of the last European states to further criminalize abortion. With Sunday’s result, he now joins other predominantly Catholic states like Ireland, which legalized abortion in 2018, and neighboring Italy, where abortion has been legal since 1978. Abortion is still illegal. in Malta and Andorra, and Poland introduced an almost total ban on proceedings this year.
The San Marino referendum was held after around 3,000 people signed a petition to overturn the micro-state’s abortion law, which dates from 1865.
Women from San Marino seeking an abortion usually travel to neighboring Italy for the procedure. But supporters of the referendum argued that it placed an undue financial burden on them and penalized women who became pregnant as a result of rape.
Sara Casadei of the “Noi Ci Siamo” campaign which pushed for “yes” in the referendum, was delighted with the result.
“We supported this for the simple reason that it seemed right that women should have a choice and not be forced to go elsewhere, but to have the services in our own territory,” she said.
Dr Maria Prassede Venturini, pediatrician and representative of the ‘Welcome Life’ campaign who supported a ‘No’ vote, said her group would continue to work for a ‘welcoming culture’ that focuses care on the ‘two main protagonists: mother and child.
Opponents of the measure had argued that in San Marino even minors can receive free contraception at pharmacies, including the morning after pill. The Catholic Church strongly opposed the measure.
In preparation for the vote, the Bishop of San Marino, Monsignor Andrea Turazzi, said the Catholic Church was “resolutely against” the decriminalization initiative, although he said the campaign had raised awareness of the need. to provide better services and care, especially for mothers in need.
The Vatican strongly opposes abortion, believing that human life begins at conception and that all life should be protected from conception until natural death.
“For us, it is inconceivable that a mother would resort to abortion because of economic problems,” Turazzi told Vatican News.
Voter Federica Gatti said while voting that a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy involves “several personal, religious and moral reasons”, but that the state “must offer this opportunity to its citizens”.
Nicole Winfield reported from Rome.