Ireland abortion referendum: United Kingdom minister hopes for NI law change

A woman lays flowers next to a mural of Savita Halappanavar in Dublin as Ireland goes to the polls to vote in the referendum on the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution. PRESS ASSOCIATION

Irish Church urges voters to reject abortion and protect life

One poll by RTÉ suggested nearly 70% of the electorate have voted to end the constitution's all but blanket ban on terminations, with another, by The Irish Times, recording 68% in favour of reform.

The Irish Times and RTE television exit polls suggest the Irish people have voted to repeal a 1983 constitutional amendment that effectively bans abortions.

Exit polls indicate Ireland may have voted by a "landslide" to legalize abortion today.

Official counting of Friday's vote begins Saturday morning, and an official result will be announced Saturday afternoon.

It acknowledged that "the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right". Varadkar said he hoped the law to allow abortions in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy would be in place by the end of the year.

Ireland's parliament will be charged with coming up with new abortion laws in the coming months. A subsequent amendment was added allowing Irish women and girls to seek abortions overseas, and about 170,000 of them done so since 1980, The Journal reported.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the consensus included men and women and almost all social classes and age groups.

The survey, conducted by the polling firm Ipsos/MRBI for the Irish Times, suggests that the "Yes" vote to repeal the eighth amendment will win by a fairly stunning margin of 68 to 32 percent, defying expectations of a closely divided electorate.

"We thought it would be close", said Heather Keane, 24, who lives in London but flew home for the vote.

If the victory is officially confirmed, Ireland's government says it is committed to introducing unrestricted access to abortion for women up to 12 weeks pregnant.

That set the trend for the day, as constituency after constituency voted in favour of change, peaking with 78.5 per cent of voters in Dublin Bay South voting Yes. The amendment, passed in 1983, made abortion illegal in the country even in cases of rape, fatal foetal abnormalities, and risk to maternal health.

"We now have to hold the government to what they have said, that they want to see a situation where abortion will be rare", said leading anti-abortion campaigner Cora Sherlock.

John McGuirk, communications director for the "Save the 8th" campaign pushing a "No" vote, reacted to the exit poll on Twitter.

"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", said Clare Murphy of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.

Turnout could be higher than for the vote on same-sex marriage three years ago, said Irish national broadcaster RTE. Amnesty International Ireland and the Abortion Rights Campaign, for instance, were required to return political grants of $150,000 and $25,000, respectively, to George Soros's Open Society Foundations.

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