Published: Sat, May 26, 2018
Worldwide | By Stella Potter

Irish overwhelmingly vote to legalise abortion, exit poll suggests

Irish overwhelmingly vote to legalise abortion, exit poll suggests

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, speaking Saturday before official results were announced, said it appeared that voters chose to liberalize Ireland's strict laws on abortion - only allowed when a woman's life is at risk - by a more than two-to-one margin.

"What we see is the culmination of a quiet revolution that has been taking place in Ireland over the last couple of decades", said Varadkar, who became the country's first openly gay prime minister a year ago.

The Irish government's push to liberalise the laws is in contrast to the United States, where abortion has always been legal, but President Donald Trump backs stripping federal funding from women's health care clinics that offer abortions.

At the time of reporting, exit polls show that a staggering 69 percent of people voted in favour of repealing the eighth amendment to the Irish constitution, paving the way for the legalisation of abortion. Leah Hoctor, the regional director for Europe at the CRR, said: "If the referendum passes it will mark a historic moment for the women of Ireland".

"For decades, Irish women have been forced to travel hundreds of miles to our clinics in England, often alone, at a huge personal and emotional cost".

Mr Varadkar claimed Ireland was united - with men and women, almost every age group and every social class opting for reform in Friday's referendum. People from all over the world celebrated on social media after the results came in Saturday morning, and people in Ireland flooded the streets.

But opponents of the repeal movement have conceded they have no chance of victory.

"Hopefully it'll be a Yes vote", he said.

"You can still passionately believe that the decision of the people is wrong, as I happen to do, and accept it", he said.

Ireland's eighth amendment was adopted in a national referendum in 1983, and the difference between that result and this one suggests profound transformations of the once-solidly Catholic country over the last 35 years.

According to an exit poll conducted by the Irish Times/IPSOS MRBI, some 68 percent of Irish voters in Friday's referendum supported repealing the Eighth Amendment to the country's constitution, which effectively bans abortions in Ireland.

In 1983, the eight amendment to the Irish constitution was ratified, which outlawed abortion in the country.

"Yes" campaigners argued that with over 3,000 women travelling to Britain each year for terminations - a right enshrined in a 1992 referendum - and others ordering pills illegally online, abortion is already a reality in Ireland. "I hope Ireland will not make the same mistake today", John McGuirk, a prominent Irish abortion rights opponent, said. It strongly recommended that the Irish parliament consider changing the law, and "any necessary constitutional change".

If these are correct then the state is set to scrap the constitutional ban on terminations and allow free access to abortion for the first time.

The magnitude of the predicted victory exceeded the expectations of abortion rights activists.

Voters in Ireland headed to the polls on Friday to decide whether the country should repeal its restrictive abortion laws.

To cast their votes, men and women from across the world flew in yesterday, making it a scene to going down in the history books.

Yet the Irish Times exit poll showed overwhelming majorities in all age groups under 65 voted for change, including nearly nine in every 10 voters under the age of 24.

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