Women in San Marino seeking an abortion usually go to neighboring Italy, a similarly Catholic country which legalized the procedure in 1978. But proponents of the referendum say that puts an undue financial burden on them and penalizes women who have been raped.
Opponents argue that in San Marino even minors can already receive free contraception at pharmacies, including the so-called morning-after pill.
Voter Federica Gatti said Sunday as she cast her ballot that a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy or not involves “several personal, religious and moral reasons,” but that the state “must provide its citizens this opportunity.”
Another voter, Elisabetta Matteini, said she was against having the procedure personally since it took her a long time to conceive her son, but that it should be available to avoid women resorting to “people who have no competence, putting their life at risk.”
In the buildup to the vote, the bishop of San Marino, Monsignor Andrea Turazzi, said the Catholic Church was “decidedly against” the decriminalization initiative, though he said the campaign had raised awareness about the need to provide better services and care, especially for mothers in financial or other need.
The Vatican firmly opposes abortion, holding that human life begins at conception and that all life must be protected from conception until natural death.
“For us its inconceivable that a mother resorts to abortion because of some economic troubles,” he told Vatican News.
The referendum was set after around 3,000 people signed a petition drive to overturn the microstate’s abortion law, which dates from 1865. If “Yes” votes prevail, San Marino’s Parliament will need to legalize the procedure.
Results were expected late Sunday.
San Marino, one of the world’s oldest republics, has a population of about 33,000 and is one of the last European states that still criminalizes abortion.
Nicole Winfield reported from Rome.
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