The Republic of San Marino voted Sunday to legalize abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The referendum vote on Sept. 26 ended the country’s ban on abortion, which had been in place since 1865.

More than 77% of voters approved the motion to allow abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy, as well as after the 12-week mark if there are “are anomalies and malformations of the fetus that involve a serious risk for the physical or psychological health of the woman.”

San Marino is a republic with a population of 35,000 people -- a third of which live outside of its borders. The tiny nation’s birth rate is about 1.2 children per woman.

The bishop of San Marino released a statement on Sept. 26 saying that pregnant women must be supported so that “no stone is left unturned in seeking alternatives” to abortion.

“We must ensure that never again does a life not blossom because of insecurity, distrust, loneliness, lack of custody and protection or for economic reasons,” Bishop Andrea Turazzi said.

“Today, with the progress of science, with the means at our disposal, with the growth of social consciousness, we can do so much to welcome unborn life,” the bishop of San Marino-Montefeltro said.

“The growth rate of a society, we believe, is not measured so much by economics, but by respect for the rights of all, starting with the fragile, defenseless and unborn.”

According to tradition, a Christian named Marinus established a Christian community in the fourth century that eventually became the city-state of San Marino.

Italy, which geographically surrounds San Marino, legalized abortion in 1978. Other majority Catholic countries, notably Ireland, have liberalized their abortion laws in recent years by referendum.

The people of Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, voted in a referendum in June to approve a bill legalizing abortion.

Following the vote, Bishop Turazzi said that the diocese of San Marino would commit itself to “witness to the Gospel of life, for a culture and a policy favorable to the family, for a boost of awareness and responsibility.”