San Marino women’s rights groups hail abortion vote

The republic has become the latest Catholic state to legalise the procedure.

Activists in San Marino celebrate the referendum results
Activists in San Marino celebrate the referendum results

Women’s rights activists in San Marino, a republic of 33,000 people in central Italy, have welcomed the microstate’s decision to legalise abortion.

The republic has become the latest Catholic state to support making abortion legal in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, with 77% of the 14,384 votes cast on Sunday in support of this position.

Abortion would also be legal beyond that point if the woman’s life was in danger or if her physical or psychological health was at risk because of fetal abnormalities.

Activists celebrate the referendum result
Activists celebrate the referendum result (Antonio Calanni/AP)

Valentina Rossi, from the Union of Sammarinese Women and a referendum promoter, said the result was “far beyond the most optimistic expectations”.

She said it showed that individual voters were able to take a decision that the republic’s politicians had refused to take for decades, even as neighbouring Italy and other European countries made the procedure legal.

San Marino’s parliament must now draft a bill to legalise the procedure, and proponents called for politicians to draft legislation that truly represented the will of the people to provide appropriate reproductive health services for all women.

“With this step, we succeeded in demonstrating that citizens are for the most part with us, and that finally San Marino will have to provide an adequate law,” Ms Rossi said. “At last!”

San Marino, one of the world’s oldest republics, had been one of the last European states still criminalising abortion.

With Sunday’s result, it now joins other predominantly Catholic states including Ireland, which legalised abortion in 2018, and San Marino’s neighbour Italy, where abortion has been legal since 1978.

Abortion is still illegal in Malta and Andorra, and Poland introduced a near-total ban on the procedure this year.

Giacomo Volpinari, a San Marino citizen, said the vote was historic and showed the power of a referendum to change course.

A woman casts her ballot at a polling station in San Marino
A woman casts her ballot at a polling station in San Marino (Antonio Calanni/AP)

“Where politics couldn’t reach, it was the people who chose to get out from a medieval situation San Marino lived in for centuries and finally we can say we have a state in line with the rules and the needs of a modern society,” he said.

Women in San Marino seeking an abortion usually go to Italy for the procedure. But proponents of the referendum argued this put an undue financial burden on them and penalised women who became pregnant as a result of rape.

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 also strongly opposed the measure. The Vatican holds that human life begins at conception and that all life must be protected from conception until natural death.

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