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Historic abortion referendum divides San Marino

San Marino, one of Europe's smallest countries - a tiny and deeply conservative republic in northern Italy - is preparing to head to the polls on Sunday to vote in a historic referendum on abortion.

San Marino, which currently has a total ban on terminations, will decide whether to overturn a law from 1865, and legalize abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The debate has divided the landlocked Catholic enclave, which is home to 33,000 people.

Veteran abortion rights advocate, Vanessa Muratori, has been campaigning for a change in the law for almost two decades.

“I would like (San Marino) to treat its citizens better, that it recognizes full citizenship of the San Marinesi women, because being unable to decide on one's own body and pregnancy means not being fully recognized as a citizen."

As it stands, women who terminate their pregnancies risk three years' imprisonment. The term is twice as long for anyone who carries out the procedure.

But the NO campaign is determined, using the slogan "one of us."

Its core message is that the unborn child should have the same rights as all San Marino citizens.

Marina Corsi, from the campaign:

“We oppose this because we believe that human life is a non-negotiable value.”

San Marino women who want to abort normally go to Italy, where abortion has been legal since 1978, and pay around 1,500 euros for private healthcare.

The world's oldest republic, San Marino has lagged behind its European neighbors when it comes to women's rights.

Women only obtained the right to vote in 1960 and have only been allowed to hold political office since 1974.

If the vote is successful, the list of European countries banning abortion will be reduced to the Mediterranean island of Malta and the micro-states of Andorra, Liechtenstein and the Vatican City.

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