Published: Sat, May 26, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Irish Women Turn Out in Droves to Repeal Constitutional Ban on Abortion

Irish Women Turn Out in Droves to Repeal Constitutional Ban on Abortion

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.

A recent survey showed 56 percent of Irish voters said they were planning to vote "yes" to repeal the amendment, but the gap has steadily narrowed in recent weeks, perhaps due to a "no" campaign funded in part by American anti-abortion groups.

A woman arrives to vote as Ireland holds a referendum on liberalizing its law on abortion, in Dublin, Ireland, May 25, 2018.

The specific question people were asked was whether they wanted to see the Eighth Amendment replaced with wording in the constitution that would hand politicians the responsibility to set future laws on abortion, unhindered by constitutional strictures.

She said her vote would be one for solidarity and compassion, "a vote to say, I don't send you away any more".

Deputy prime minister of Ireland, Tanaiste Simon Coveney, said in response to the preliminary polling, "Thank you to everybody who voted today - democracy can be so powerful on days like today - looks like a stunning result that will bring about a fundamental change for the better".

"I knew I had to spend this money that I didn't have", she said.

Earlier Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, a proponent of liberalising Ireland's strict abortion regime, predicted a high turnout would be good for those campaigning for change. Numerous anti-abortion signs showed photographs of fetuses.

Exit polls are not based on the actual counting of ballots. I hope that today Ireland will vote yes for that freedom. That was the final date to be added to the register in order to be entitled to vote in Friday's poll.

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Abortion is now only legal in Ireland in cases where the mother's life is at risk, and remains illegal in cases of rape, incest or fetal abnormality.

Voters are choosing between retaining the Eighth Amendment, which says an unborn child has an equal right to life as the mother, or replacing it to include provision for "the regulation of termination of pregnancy". She said her friend had found seeing the omnipresent referendum placards distressing.

"I think it's important that we protect the unborn babies, people don't care anymore about the dignity of human life".

An official result will not be announced until Saturday morning (local time). It's also a test of the apparent leftward shift of the electorate recently represented by Varadkar himself, the first openly gay prime minister in a once-deeply conservative country that had banned homosexuality until just a quarter-century ago.

Unless the woman's life is in danger, pregnancies can not be terminated, making these laws some of the strictest in Europe, and indeed the rest of the world.

Yesterday, nine Irish women will have travelled to England to terminate a pregnancy.

The ban has led to thousands of women travelling each year to neighbouring Britain, where terminations are legal, or increasingly turning to abortion pills sold online.

"He said that proposed legislation seeks to introduce a "very liberal abortion regime" with unrestricted access for first three months and thereafter access on health grounds, not yet defined, and possibly up to birth for life limiting conditions".

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