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Anna Maria found out that she was pregnant at the age of 33 and was already the mother of a two-year-old girl. Getting pregnant again was not in her plans.

But Anna Maria lives in San Marino, a historically Catholic microstate landlocked inside Italy, where abortion is illegal and punishable by at least three years in prison.

“I want to explain what it means to live in a country that does not allow women free access to abortion, a country that denies its citizens and their families the right to self-determination,” he said. -she stated in an anonymous testimony provided to a feminist activist. group in the country, the Union of Sammarine Women (UDS). Anna Maria is a pseudonym.

She suffered from severe postpartum depression after her first child and was prescribed psychiatric medication which she said allowed her to lead a “normal” life. Now she wondered if her meds had damaged the fetus inside her.

“Just like that, my peace of mind was gone,” she said. “What damage has my intoxicated body caused to the embryo?” “

Remove the stigma

UDS collected anonymous testimonies from Samarin women before a referendum on abortion on September 26, who will decide whether to change the country’s penal code and allow abortion up to twelve weeks gestation.

“We have had so many women telling us their stories,” said Karen Pruccoli, one of the founding members of UDS. “We are like any other country, even if we are small. We have the same problems and the same needs, and we want the same rights.

In a park at the northern tip of the country, UDS activists set up a booth with posters and badges in their campaign’s distinctive purple and orange colors, urging residents to vote. “Yes!” on Sunday.

There is an atmosphere of nervous anticipation. The UDS was officially founded in September 2019, but the struggle for abortion rights in the country began long before that. Feminist politicians and activists proposed successive bills on the issue in 2003, 2014 and 2017, which were rejected one by one by the country’s parliament.

In March 2019, the UDS introduced a new bill to legalize abortion. “We were taking advantage of a law that had just been passed and that said all bills had to be discussed and implemented within six months. We said to ourselves, now is the time, “Pruccoli told Euronews. But in August the government collapsed and new elections had to be called. The COVID-19 pandemic, six months later, has further delayed reading of the bill by the new government.

Tired of waiting and apologizing from the government, the UDS has chosen a riskier path: asking for a referendum. If the Yes campaign loses, they will not be able to hold another referendum on the subject for three years.

“We must have collected a thousand signatures in favor of a referendum in the space of a month,” said Vanessa Muratori, UDS board member and former politician, behind the whole thing. first bill to legalize abortion in 2003.

The organization ended up collecting 3,000 signatures – and with that, Muratori says the “total silence” around abortion has been broken.

“We have taken away the moral stigma, the point of finger pointing,” she said.

Anna Maria’s testimony is one of the many stories the UDS gathered as the vote approached. She said doctors in San Marino had not told her about her options. Healthcare professionals are not allowed to provide information about abortion and have a duty to report women who they know have had one.

Anna Maria therefore found herself alone in search of answers. She said she found out that the mind-altering drugs she was taking could have caused serious health problems for the fetus, including congenital heart problems and cognitive impairment.

“I made the most difficult but thoughtful decision of my life. I never wanted to give birth to a child whose health was severely compromised and I could not have dealt with it with my own mental health issues, ”she said.

“I went for an abortion – not as a free person in my own country, but secretly in Italy in a private clinic, where I was unaccompanied, uncomfortable and judged.”

Optimism

Muratori says abortion being illegal creates a Catch-22: because women don’t talk about it, it’s impossible to prevent it from happening or to put in place mechanisms to support pregnant women.

“We don’t know how many abortions take place. We don’t have any statistics on it because it’s all secret, ”Muratori said.

UDS activists believe that a Yes result will not only decriminalize abortion in San Marino, but could also serve as a stepping stone to other services such as better sex education in schools, access to free contraception and free family planning services.

For Muratori, the current law is “backward and cruel”.

“He sees a woman as an incubator, not as a human being able to decide what is best for her,” she said, banging her fist on the table in front of her. “If we lose, nothing will change. Women will continue to cross the border alone to have an abortion.

But she is optimistic the country will vote yes at the end of the month. “When people have the opportunity, they always choose to respect the rights of the individual. Hopefully San Marino is no exception.

Every day of the week, Uncovering Europe brings you a European story that goes beyond the headlines. Download the Euronews app to receive a daily alert for this and other last minute notifications. It is available on both Apple and Android devices.

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