Tiny San Marino is one of the last countries in Europe which forbids abortion in any circumstance — a ban that dates from 1865. On Sunday (Sept. 25), its citizens can vote in a referendum calling for abortion to be made legal in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The ballot proposal also calls for abortion to be permitted beyond that point if the woman’s life is in danger or if her physical or psychological health are at risk due to fetal anomalies or malformations.
Women in San Marino seeking an abortion currently go to neighboring Italy, which legalized the procedure in 1978.
San Marino is one of the world’s oldest republics and has a population of some 33,000. The referendum was set for Sunday after some 3,000 Sammarinesi, as its citizens are called, signed a petition drive. About 65% of signatories are women, said Karen Pruccoli, a San Marino entrepreneur who spearheaded the drive.
“We had asked the political sphere to make a law” legalizing abortion, Pruccoli said in a telephone interview Thursday. “When we realized that the political sphere didn’t want to enact a law, we decided to have the referendum.”
No opinion polls have been conducted. If “Yes” votes prevail, San Marino’s Parliament will need to legalize abortion.
Other tiny countries in Europe are considering easing abortion bans. This spring, a lawmaker in European Union member nation Malta presented a bill to scrap part of the criminal code that makes abortion a crime punishable with up to three years in prison. The provision is rarely enforced, with the last known jailing for abortion occurring in 1980, according to Maltese officials.
In Gibraltar, a tiny British territory on Spain’s southern tip, voters in June endorsed legislative changes to ease an abortion ban and allow the procedure up to the 12th week of pregnancy if a doctor deems the woman’s physical or mental health is at risk or if there is risk of a fatal fetal abnormality.
Andorra, a microstate bordering Spain and France, has a total ban on abortion.
Italy’s abortion law, fiercely lobbied against by the Catholic church, allows health personnel to refuse to perform abortions for reasons of conscience. In some southern regions, as many as 80% of gynecologists have claimed conscientious objector status.