San Marino abortion debate intensifies ahead of landmark referendum

  • Sunday’s vote could overturn 156-year law
  • Comes as other nations like Poland tighten the laws
  • Women face 3 years imprisonment under current abortion law

SAINT-MARIN, Sept.20 (Reuters) – One of Europe’s strongest opponents of legal abortion could fall on Sunday when San Marino, a small, deeply Catholic republic landlocked in Italy, holds a referendum to repeal a law dating back to 1865.

A “yes” vote will bring some relief to more distant pro-choice supporters who have been appalled by the toughening of laws by authorities in countries like Poland and the US state of Texas. Read more

In the mountainous enclave of 33,000 inhabitants, women who terminate their pregnancies face three years in prison. The delay is twice as long for anyone who performs an abortion.

As the campaign enters its final week, emotions run high between traditionalists and referendum promoters, with hard-hitting posters on medieval streets.

Vanessa Muratori, a member of the San Marino Women’s Union, believes the September 26 plebiscite will crown an 18-year personal battle to give women in San Marino the same rights as in Italy, where abortion is legal since 1978.

“I care about my country and I want it to be civilized,” she said. “I feel like a link in a chain of women’s emancipation that goes beyond San Marino.”

Elsewhere in Europe, the Mediterranean island of Malta and the microstates of Andorra and Vatican City, another Italian enclave, still completely ban abortion.

Muratori created a feminist association in 1994 and presented a bill to legalize abortion in the Legislative Council of San Marino in 2003. He only got two votes for and 16 against.

The experience made her understand the extent of religious resistance to change and convinced her that a well-prepared campaign was needed to win the hearts and minds of her compatriots.

Success on Sunday will allow abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and then only in case of danger to the life of the mother or serious malformation of the fetus.


Members of the “Yes” campaign to legalize abortion in San Marino hand out leaflets ahead of the September 26 referendum in San Marino, one of the smallest countries in Europe, on September 15, 2021. Photo taken on September 15, 2021. REUTERS / Jennifer Lorenzini

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In the last European abortion referendum, the British overseas territory of Gibraltar voted in June to ease what remain extremely strict restrictions.

Ireland legalized abortion in a much more publicized referendum in 2018, while this month the state of Texas went the other way, introducing a law banning most abortions after six weeks. of pregnancy.

Social progress has always been slow in San Marino.

Women did not gain the right to vote until 1960, 14 years after circling Italy, and have only been allowed to hold political office since 1974. Divorce was legalized in 1986, around 16 years old. after Italy.

Nonetheless, the Muratori Women’s Union, campaigning from a kiosk in a children’s playground near the Italian border, made forays into the conservative mentality and collected 3,000 signatures to start the vote, three times more as needed.

“From my point of view, this referendum shouldn’t even be necessary, the choice to have a baby or not should be part of a woman’s human freedom,” said Anita Alvarez, a 20-year-old student.

The “No” campaign is also determined. Using the slogan “one of us”, its main message is that the unborn child should have the same rights as all citizens of San Marino.

Marina Corsi, an active pharmacist on the “NO” committee, said this principle should not be compromised even in cases of rape or the certainty of severe disability for the unborn baby.

“It’s not the baby who is guilty in rape cases, it’s the rapist who needs to be punished, not the child,” she said.

As it stands, women in San Marino wishing to have an abortion normally travel to Italy, where they can only get one in private, at a cost of around 1,500 euros ($ 1,766).

“Women are forced to seek health care (…)

Writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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