In San Marino, a historic and symbolic vote to legalize abortion

According to some, like the Italian newspaper everyday truth, The tiny Republic of San Marino, sandwiched in the mountains between Emilia-Romagna and the Marchesia, voted on Sunday, September 26, “Out of the Middle Ages”. For others, on the other hand, it was above all a matter of getting out of hypocrisy.

Forty-three years after Italy adopted “Law 194”, authorizing the voluntary termination of pregnancy (abortion), the citizens of San Marino were asked to make the same decision, by referendum. At the end of a lively campaign in which supporters of the status quo gave many votes, the voters’ response was clear and unquestioned: More than 77.3% chose to repeal the law punishing abortion on the territory of the Republic. From now on, abortion will be possible up to twelve weeks of pregnancy, and beyond this date if there are health risks.

No litigation since 1978

Until then, abortion was heavily punished in San Marino. According to Articles 153 and 154 of the Penal Code, adopted in 1865, this act was punishable by imprisonment from six months to three years – the only extenuating circumstances provided for in the woman being unmarried. As for the doctor who was going to decide to perform an abortion on French soil, he faced a six-year prison sentence, even if the patient’s health was at stake.

But this prohibition practically no longer existed: in fact, the women of San Marino had to travel only a few kilometers to go and have an abortion, at their expense, in Italy. Thus, since the peninsula’s abortion was authorized in 1978, no one in San Marino has been prosecuted under these two very oppressive articles, which have become ineffective.

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However, the symbolic weight of the Sunday evening vote is significant, despite the low turnout (41% of those registered). This is all the more important since this progress was made thanks to the work of activists at the San Marino Women’s Union (UDS), a very active association in the 1970s and 1980s, which was reformed in 2019 with the goal of getting abortion decriminalized. These collected more than 3,000 signatures (a large number in the case of a republic with a population of 35,000), forcing the organization of a popular initiative referendum.

Because of the paucity of opinion polls, banned in San Marino, the two camps campaigned blindly, with no indication of the degree to which the two camps were mobilized.

years of effort

In the face of pro-abortion activists backed by both the left and by many civil society associations, the country’s main political composition, the San Marino Christian Democratic Party (PDCS), and the local church, remained very influential. She follows it into play, highlighting the positions of the Vatican and taking advantage of the support of the Italian anti-abortion movements, which immediately organized several demonstrations and published, a few days before the elections, a huge billboard “Stop the abortion”Italian side, a few meters from the border.

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