SAN MARINO (AP) – Residents of San Marino overwhelmingly voted in favor of legalizing abortion on Sunday, rejecting a 150-year-old law that criminalized them, and making the small republic the youngest Catholic-majority state to initiate the procedure approved under certain circumstances.
Around 77% of voters voted for a referendum proposal calling for abortions to be legal in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, according to the official return aired on San Marino RTV. Abortion would also be legal if the woman’s life is in danger or her physical or mental health is endangered by fetal anomalies or deformities.
After the “yes” votes won, the Parliament of San Marino now has to work out a bill to legalize the procedure. The turnout in the referendum in the micro-state surrounded by Italy with 33,000 people was 41%.
San Marino, one of the oldest republics in the world, was one of the last European countries to criminalize abortion. With Sunday’s result, it is now joining 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 has an almost complete ban on the procedures this year.
The San Marino referendum was set after around 3,000 people signed a petition to repeal the microstate’s 1865 abortion law.
San Marino women seeking an abortion usually go to neighboring Italy for the procedure. However, proponents of the referendum argued that they were placing an undue financial burden and punishing women who became pregnant as a result of rape.
Sara Casadei from the “Noi Ci Siamo” campaign, which pushed for a “yes” in the referendum, was satisfied 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 have the services on our own territory,” she said.
Dr. Maria Prassede Venturini, pediatrician and representative of the “Welcome Life” campaign, which backed a “No”, said her group will continue to work for a “culturally welcome life” that focuses on the “two main protagonists: the mother” and child . “
Opponents of the measure had argued that pharmacies in San Marino also offer free contraception to minors, including the morning-after pill. The Catholic Church had resolutely opposed the measure.
Leading up to the vote, the Bishop of San Marino Msgr. Andrea Turazzi said the Catholic Church was “firmly 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 danger.
The Vatican strongly opposes abortion because human life begins with conception and that all life must be protected from conception to natural death.
“We cannot imagine a mother resorting to abortion because of some economic problems,” Turazzi told Vatican News.
Voter Federica Gatti said when she cast a vote that a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy or not involves “several personal, religious and moral reasons” but that the state “must offer its citizens this option”.