Today, Sunday 26 September, a referendum is held in San Marino to decide whether to make abortion legal, which in the country is a crime punishable by jail for both the woman who interrupts the pregnancy and for those who help her. San Marino is one of the very few places in Europe where abortion is illegal or in any case severely limited, together with Vatican City, Malta, Andorra, Liechtenstein and Poland: the referendum is held after 18 years of attempts to decriminalize the voluntary termination of pregnancy, all failed.
Currently in the Republic of San Marino, which is located between Emilia-Romagna and the Marche and has about 34 thousand inhabitants, abortion is illegal even in the event of rape, serious malformations of the fetus and life threatening for the woman. In particular, articles 153 and 154 of the penal code punish the woman who abortions with imprisonment from six months to three years, and provide for penalties of up to six years for those who help her or physically carry out the abortion.
Among other things, article 154 provides for an autonomous type of crime, with lighter penalties, for abortion “for reasons of honor”, which is punished “only” with imprisonment from three months to one year. This is the abortion of a woman free from marriage: in fact the law considers abortion less serious if the child is illegitimate.
All these articles date back to 1865, were confirmed in the Fascist era and were then maintained in the current penal code, which came into force in 1974.
Furthermore, if a woman in danger of life is subjected to a therapeutic abortion, a criminal procedure is automatically opened and everything depends on the decision of the judge, who can grant a cause of justification based on the “state of necessity”. In any case, in the section of the penal code that regulates abortion, this “exception” is not explicit.
Specifically, the question of Sunday’s referendum is the following:
You want the woman to be allowed to voluntarily terminate the pregnancy within 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?
The referendum on Sunday was reached thanks to the mobilization and work of the feminist group Union of San Marino women (Uds) and the support of the RETE Civic Movement, which had collected over 3 thousand signatures, more than double those necessary to guarantee its execution.
On its website, the UDS explains that the principles included in the referendum question are two: the woman’s self-determination, ie the possibility of freely deciding whether to terminate the pregnancy within the twelfth week of gestation; and therapeutic abortion, or the possibility of aborting even after the twelfth week, in case of danger to the life of the woman or in the presence of anomalies and malformations of the fetus that pose a serious risk to the physical or psychological health of the woman.
San Marino women who want to have an abortion can cross the borders of the Republic and enter Italy. As explained on International Claudia Torrisi, it was precisely the proximity to Italy, together with a certain economic well-being, which up to now allowed many women to face the necessary expenses, to “ensure that in San Marino the ban persisted over the years without making too much noise”. Moreover, the timing and circumstances indicated in the question are intentionally identical to the Italian law number 194 of 1978 “in order not to create differences” between the two systems.
– Read also: Doubts about the constitutionality of Texas abortion law
The referendum question is of a propositional or directional type, that is to say that it intends to determine guiding principles and criteria to which the Great and General Council – the parliament of San Marino – will have to comply in disciplining the subject matter of the referendum with a law.
The referendum of 26 September, therefore, asks the electricians and the voters to rule only on the cases in which abortion must be decriminalized and not on the many other aspects that regulate the voluntary termination of pregnancy, such as counseling centers, the prevention of pregnancies. unwanted, parental authorization in the case of minors, conscientious objection and so on.
The referendum does not provide for any quorum. If the question obtains the majority of validly expressed votes, it must be incorporated by the Great and General Council into a more complete and broader legislation.
As had happened during previous attempts to decriminalize abortion, also on this occasion anti-abortion campaigns were activated by Catholic associations and local dioceses, supported in turn by the Christian Democratic Party, which today is the main one in San Marine. Recently, a committee against the referendum called “One of us” was born and was denounced by UDS for having violated the rules set for the electoral campaign, which should have started only fifteen days before the vote.