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Ireland referendum could lift strict ban on abortion

26 May 2018

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he was quietly confident that a strong early turnout in Ireland's abortion referendum on Friday would favor those seeking change in what two decades ago was one of Europe's most socially conservative countries.

The referendum is one of the most anticipated, and controversial, in the heavily Catholic nation's history, as it could roll back rules that now only allow abortion in the case of a woman's life being at risk, but not for rape, incest or fatal fetal abnormality.

After polls closed today, Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Ireland's National Public Service Multi-Media Organization, said exit polls indicate that the "yes" voters has won by a margin of 69.4% to 30.6%.

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".

Still, the country remains predominantly Roman Catholic, and the church has come out strongly against the measure. Votes are expected to be counted on Saturday morning, with an official result to be declared later that day.

Polls suggest Irish voters are set to overturn one of the world's strictest bans on terminations.

Women accessing illegal abortions can receive a maximum 14-year jail sentence, but the law allows them to travel overseas for an abortion, resulting in several thousand Irish women travelling to the United Kingdom each year to terminate their pregnancies.

If the proposal to repeal the Eighth Amendment is defeated on Friday, the country will not have a second referendum and it could be another 35 years before voters have their say on the matter again, Varadkar said according to the Irish Times.

The Referendum Commission‏ tweeted a simple message about Friday's vote: "The debate is over and now everyone should make sure their voice is heard by voting". Numerous anti-abortion signs showed photographs of foetuses.

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

The law on abortion is enshrined in the country's constitution, which can be changed only by referendum.

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Ireland does not give its expatriates absentee ballots or the option to vote in embassies. She found out she was pregnant; the doctors said "our hands are tied".

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.

In Dublin, close-to 80 percent of voters opted to Repeal.

Thousands of Irish people overseas travelled home to take part in the historic referendum, and supporters of repeal gathered at Dublin Airport to give arrivals an ecstatic welcome.

"It is a hard decision but I just feel I don't have the right to take life", she said.

If citizens vote in favour of repeal, new abortion laws will then be discussed in parliament.

Specifically, they are speaking out for the legalization of abortion in Ireland.

Repealing the amendment means that abortion could be regulated as it is in both the United States and the United Kingdom, clearing the way for Ireland's government to implement more liberal abortion laws.

"If we vote "yes", every unborn, wanted and unwanted, will have zero rights", Killarney resident Frances Kelleher wrote.

While some people want the ban to be removed, pro-life activists shame the abortion process.

Ireland referendum could lift strict ban on abortion