San Marino to vote on abortion legalization Sept. 26

San Marino Guaita tower, San Marino | princeztl/Shutterstock

The tiny European nation of San Marino, where abortion has been illegal for nearly a century and a half, is set to hold a referendum on the legalization of abortion later this month. 

The nation of about 35,000 people, which is estimated to be over 90% Catholic, will vote Sept. 26 on whether to allow abortions up to 12 weeks into pregnancy; the vote would also determine the legality of abortion after 12 weeks if there “are anomalies and malformations of the fetus that involve a serious risk for the physical or psychological health of the woman.” 

Over 3,000 signatures were collected in support of the referendum, more than double the legal requirement, the Guardian reported. Several attempts to change the country’s abortion law over the past 20 years have failed after vetoes from successive governments. 

The currently-ruling Christian Democratic Party has urged citizens to vote no on the legal change. 

Abortion has been illegal in San Marino since 1865. Italy, which geographically surrounds the microstate, legalized abortion in 1978. Other majority-Catholic countries, notably Ireland, have liberalized their abortion laws in recent years by referendum. 

“San Marino has no obligation to adopt the laws of its border nations and it doesn’t need to depend on the bad example of Italy,” said Dr. Adolfo Morganti of Comitato Uno di Noi (“One of Us Comittee”), a pro-life group which campaigned against the legalization of abortion in San Marino. 

Morganti warned that the referendum language could open San Marino to the possibility of “abortion tourism,” as it does not impose a citizenship or residency requirement.

He also questioned the need for abortion legalization, given the strong welfare system in the country that provides aid to pregnant women in need. San Marino also has an already low birthrate of about 1.2 children per woman, and legal abortion will likely add to the state’s population decline, he said. 

Comitato Uno di Noi has received criticism from abortion advocates for a campaign of posters in San Marino that depict a boy with Down syndrome, with the caption: “I am an anomaly, so do I have fewer rights than you? Vote no [on the referendum].”

In many countries with liberal abortion laws, such as Iceland and the Netherlands, abortion rates for babies diagnosed witth Down syndrome is over 90%. Morganti said the poster conveys “a very uncomfortable truth, which is that wherever abortion has been liberalized, the hunt for [people with Down syndrome] has started immediately.”

Father Gabriele Mangiarotti, a priest who serves at a church in the historic center of San Marino, told France24 that changing the country’s abortion law would be a betrayal of the country’s principles. San Marino "was founded by a saint and therefore has a Christian presence in its DNA,” he said. According to tradition, a Christian named Marinus in the fourth century established a Christian community which eventually became the city-state of San Marino.

"Killing an innocent child is a serious act, a crime," he said. 

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