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INTERNAZIONALE

San Marino, Tiny Nation-State May Be Next To End Abortion Ban

After Ireland, another once Catholic stronghold in Europe is challenging a longstanding law that makes abortion a crime, for both women and doctors.

At a meeting of an organization working to legalize abortion in San Marino
At a meeting of an organization working to legalize abortion in San Marino

Some of the last remaining European countries that enforce bans on abortions have sparked massive social movements in recent years: from Poland where 150,000 demonstrated last October in Warsaw after a court ruled in favor of an almost total abortion ban to the outpouring of support in Ireland for a 2018 referendum that repealed an age-old ban —even the miniature-sized British territory of Gibraltar made international headlines after a campaign recently forced a referendum that successfully scrapped the local law that punished abortions with life imprisonment.

But hidden from view, a much quieter battle is unfolding in the sloping, sleepy streets of a medieval city-state tucked inside central Italy. San Marino, population 33,000, is one of the last places in Europe where getting an abortion on request is illegal (The others are: Andorra, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco and Poland.)

A priest compared us to Nazis.

Abortions in San Marino are punished with three to six years in prison – for both the woman who requests the abortion and anyone who takes part in the operation, including doctors. The law makes no exceptions for cases of rape or fetal malformation.

That might be about to change after the Union of Sammarinese Women has gathered enough signatures to call a referendum to scrap the restrictions. Campaigners say that the country's restrictive laws are rooted in the long-running influence of the Catholic Church in the small landlocked country. Local politics "does not mirror society, while fundamentalist Catholics are over-represented in the media," Vanessa Muratori, of the women's rights union, told the Italian weekly magazine Internazionale. "A priest compared us to Nazis in World War II. But people think differently, especially among the younger generations."

Unable to have abortions in their country, women often travel to neighboring Italy, where some kinds of abortions on request have been legal since 1978, to secretly have abortions in private clinics for about €2,000. Those who can't afford it usually resort to clandestine abortions in cheaper facilities, Internazionale reports.

In many cases, the secrecy that surrounds abortions increases the social stigma and mental health toll facing women. One young woman who asked not to be named told the magazine she was advised not to say a word about it with anyone.

Women's rights groups have campaigned to scrap the ban since at least 2003, but successive attempts failed to gain the backing of the country's political forces and foundered. Now the referendum, which still must be assigned an election day, could expand Europe's growing list of pro-choice nations — no matter the size.

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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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