San Marino: This tiny European nation votes to legalise abortion in historic referendum

San Marino is one of the last European countries that completely forbids abortions under any circumstances. Around 77.3 percent voters supported the proposal to allow abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy in the historic referendum.

Created On: Sep 28, 2021 14:40 IST
San Marino votes to legalise abortion in historic referendum, Source: AP
San Marino votes to legalise abortion in historic referendum, Source: AP

The small landlocked European nation, San Marino voted overwhelmingly to legalise abortion in a historic referendum, overturning a law dating back to 1865. 

The results revealed on September 26, 2021 showed that around 77.3 percent of voters supported the proposal to allow abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and afterward only in cases where the mother's life is in danger or in case of grave malformation of the foetus. The voter turnout though was low with just 41 percent of eligible voters casting their votes. 

Why is this significant?

The referendum is historic as San Marino is one of the last European countries that completely forbids abortions under any circumstances. 

Penalties for abortion in San Marino

Till now, the women who ended their pregnancies in San Marino risked facing three years' imprisonment. The term is double (6 years)  for anyone found guilty of carrying out an abortion. The women who wanted to end their pregnancies in the tiny republic generally had to go to Italy to get it done privately.

San Marino's historic referendum

•The vote to legalise abortion in San Marino was initiated by the San Marino Women's Union (UDS)
Residents. Around 35,000 people, a third of them living abroad, were eligible to vote in the referendum. 

•Overall, around 77 percent of voters supported the decision to legalise abortion while around 23 percent voted against the decision. 

•San Marino's Interior Minister Elena Tonnini has called on parliament to translate the referendum result into law.

•The move will overturn an old law, dating back to 1865, that imposed a complete ban on abortions.

•The new law will make abortions legal up in the landlocked enclave until the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

•After the 12-week mark, abortion will be allowed only in exceptional cases such as if the mother's health is at risk or the abnormalities in the foetus could cause physical or psychological harm.

San Marino

San Marino is a small state in Southern Europe that is enclaved by Italy. It is located on the northeastern side of the Apennine Mountains and has a population of just 33,562 people. The country's capital is the city of San Marino. The nearest airport is in Italy. The country is located within 10km of the Italian city of Rimini on the Adriatic Sea.

Traditionally, San Marino with its strong Catholic heritage has been socially conservative. The women in the country did not get the right to vote till as late as 1960, almost 14 years after Italy. Further, women were allowed to hold political office only since 1974 and divorce was legalised in 1986, almost 16 years after Italy. 

The British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar had also similarly voted in June to ease strict curbs on abortion. Ireland also previously legalised abortion in a historic referendum in 2018.

However, there are still places that ban abortion in Europe, find the full list below:

List of European Countries where abortion is illegal

The Vatican City 
Northern Ireland


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