On Sunday, February 9, the Swiss electorate voted on three referenda, one of which was the following:
Do you accept the popular initiative “Paying for an abortion is a private matter—reduce the burden on health insurance by ending basic coverage for abortion?”
The popular initiative would end the coverage by compulsory health insurance for terminations of pregnancy and embryo reduction.
The referendum was proposed by an interparty coalition composed largely of Christian and conservative citizens. The measure was soundly rejected with a negative vote majority of approximately 70%. Christians themselves were divided on this proposal, which did not help the outcome. Also, members of the Swiss Parliament were very much against the measure: In the National Council members were 155 against and 33 in favor while the Council of States members were 37 opposed and only 5 in favor.
As things remain, all Swiss taxpayers will continue to foot the bill for abortions, a contentious matter experienced by many other countries as well.
Swiss negativism extended to another referendum to “stop mass immigration” in order to limit immigration and set state quotas for both immigrants and asylum seekers. The measure passed with a narrow majority of just over 50%, including a majority of Cantons, but was received with great consternation by officials in the European Union due to an agreement regarding the free circulation of persons between Switzerland and the EU, which probably has to be renegotiated. Nearly one fourth of the Swiss population consists of foreigners. It may also be that a significant number of abortions in Switzerland are obtained by foreign women (this is the case in next door Italy) so it is possible that there may have been a link between the two referenda.
The third referendum, which dealt with approval of a Federal Decree on financing infrastructure of the Swiss railway system, also was passed with a 62% majority as Swiss voters seem to have no problem with government spending.
* * * * *
—Vincenzina Santoro is Chief UN Representative for the American Family Association of New York