On Sunday, the San Marino residents overwhelmingly voted to legalize abortion. They rejected a 150-year-old law which had criminalized the practice and made the tiny republic the latest Catholic majority state to allow the procedure in certain circumstances.

77% of voters voted to make abortion legal within the first 12 weeks. According to official returns broadcast by San Marino RTV, it will be legal beyond this point if the woman is in imminent danger of her life or her psychological or physical health are at risk due to fetal anomalies and malformations.

The referendum turnout was 41% in the microstate with 33,000 inhabitants, which is surrounded by Italy.

San Marino, one the oldest republics in the world, was one of the last European countries that had still criminalized abortion. It now joins other Catholic states such as Ireland and Italy which have legalized abortion since 1978. The legality of abortion is still in place in Malta, Andorra, as well as Poland which introduced a ban on the procedure.

After around 3,000 people signed an online petition to repeal the state’s 1865 abortion law, the referendum in San Marino was held. San Marino’s Parliament now has to take legalization steps after the “yes” vote.

San Marino women who want to have an abortion go to Italy. Proponents of the referendum argue that it places an undue economic burden on them and penalizes those who are raped.

Sara Casadei, of the “Noi Ci Siamo”, campaign that pushed the referendum, was happy with the result.

She stated that she supported the initiative because it was right for women to make their own decisions and not be forced to travel to another place. However, the services would still be available on her territory.

Contraceptives are available at no cost in San Marino for minors. The Catholic Church strongly opposed the measure.

Federica Gatti, a voter, stated that a woman can decide to end a pregnancy for “several personal and religious reasons” but that the state must offer this option to its citizens.

Elisabetta Mateini, another voter, stated that she opposed the procedure because it took her so long to conceive her child. She said that it should be made available so women don’t have to resort to “people with no competence and putting their lives at risk.”

Monsignor Andrea Turazzi (Bishop of San Marino), stated that the Catholic Church was against the decriminalization initiative in the lead-up to the vote. However, he claimed the campaign had increased awareness about the need for better services and care, particularly for mothers in crisis.

The Vatican strongly opposes abortion. It believes that human life begins at conception, and that all life must remain protected until natural death.

He said to Vatican News, “It is inconceivable for a mother to resort to abortion due some economic troubles.”