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Tiny country endangers tiny humans

The Republic of San Marino votes to legalize abortion until 12 weeks of pregnancy and later in some cases

A woman casts her ballot in the abortion referendum in San Marino. Associated Press/Photo by Antonio Calanni

Tiny country endangers tiny humans

A majority of voters in the largely Catholic Republic of San Marino (population about 34,000) voted Sept. 26 in favor of making abortion legal until the 12th week of pregnancy. Current law in the country dates back to the 1860s and prohibits abortions in all cases, carrying a penalty of up to six years in prison. But the referendum opens the way for legislators to make wide-reaching changes to that law.

Before now, San Marino—a 24-square-mile country landlocked by Italy—was one of the few remaining nations in Europe with laws protecting all unborn babies. Malta, Andorra, and Vatican City are among the others that maintain the protections, according to The World. Previous attempts to introduce exceptions to San Marino’s pro-life law have not gone far. In 2016, San Marino legislators approved three bills proposing to remove penalties for abortion if the pregnancy imperiled a woman’s life, if the pregnancy resulted from an act of violence, or if the baby was malformed. But those bills never became law.

Only 41 percent of eligible voters turned out for a Sept. 26 national referendum on the issue this year. Very low participation among voters abroad affected the overall turnout. Of those who participated, 77 percent marked “yes” on the ballot question: “Do you want women to be allowed to voluntarily terminate pregnancy until the twelfth week of gestation, and also thereafter if there is danger to the life of the woman or if there are abnormalities and malformations of the fetus that pose a serious risk to the physical or psychological health of the woman?” San Marino legislators have six months to draft a bill outlining the exact details before it goes to a vote in the republic’s parliament.

The One of Us Committee, a group formed to oppose the San Marino referendum, noted that although current abortion law does not contain any exceptions, a general principle from the nation’s penal code permitted abortions in cases when a woman’s life is at risk. The referendum question put no time limit on the proposed exceptions and left them vague. “‘Anomaly’ is an extremely generic term, of no scientific or medical value … and opens up to extremely dangerous interpretations,” One of Us said, pointing out that people can manipulate the term “psychological health.”

Previously, most San Marino women who wanted abortions could travel to Italy, where the procedure has been legal since 1978. But Italy protects the conscience rights of doctors to abstain from performing abortions, and abortion advocates complain the procedure has become hard to access in some parts of the country. Antonella Mularoni with One of Us told The World she worries San Marino could become a destination for Italian abortion tourists: “If you have a legislation which is more favorable to abortion rather than the Italian one, of course, you might have women coming to San Marino.”

Leah Savas

Leah reports on pro-life topics for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Hillsdale College graduate. Leah resides in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her husband, Stephen.



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