SAN MARINO (AP) – San Marino residents voted overwhelmingly Sunday to legalize abortion, rejected a 150-year-old law that had criminalized it, and made the small republic the latest Catholic state to approve the procedure under certain circumstances.
About 77% of voters approved a referendum proposal calling for abortion to be legal in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, according to official returns broadcast on San Marino RTV. Abortion would also be legal beyond the point if the woman’s life is in danger or if her physical or mental health is in danger due to fetal anomalies or malformations.
As the “yes” votes win, the San Marino parliament must now draft a bill to legalize the procedure. The turnout for the referendum was 41% in the microstate of 33,000 people surrounded by Italy.
San Marino, one of the world’s oldest republics, had been one of the last European states to still criminalize abortion. With Sunday’s result, it now joins other predominantly Catholic states such as 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 procedure. this year.
The San Marino referendum was set after about 3,000 people signed a petition to overturn the microstat abortion law of 1865.
Women in San Marino seeking abortion usually go to neighboring Italy to have the procedure. But proponents of the referendum claimed they were placing an unreasonable financial burden on them and punishing women who became pregnant as a result of rape.
Sara Casadei from the “Noi Ci Siamo” campaign, who pushed for a “yes” vote in the referendum, was pleased with the result.
“We supported this for the simple reason that it seemed right that women have a choice and are not forced to go anywhere else but to have the services in our own territory,” she said.
Dr. Maria Prassede Venturini, a pediatrician and representative of the “Welcome Life” campaign who supported a “No” vote, said her group would continue to work for a “culturally inviting life” focusing on “two main characters”: the 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 had strongly opposed the measure.
In the build-up to the vote, the bishop of San Marino, Monsignor Andrea Turazzi, said the Catholic Church was “strongly opposed” to 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 is strongly opposed to abortion, believing that human life begins at conception and that all life must be protected from conception to natural death.
“For us, it is unthinkable for a mother to have an abortion because of some financial problems,” Turazzi told Vatican News.
Voter Federica Gatti said when she cast her vote that a woman’s decision to abort a pregnancy or not involves “several personal, religious and moral reasons”, but that the state “should give its citizens this opportunity.”
Nicole Winfield reported from Rome.
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