Published: Sat, May 26, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Irish abortion referendum: Counting starts as exit polls show landslide in favor

Irish abortion referendum: Counting starts as exit polls show landslide in favor

Voters will be asked on Friday if they wish to repeal a constitutional amendment inserted following a 1983 referendum that enshrined the equal right to life of the mother and her unborn child, and to enable parliament to set the laws.

The official result for the referendum is expected this afternoon. Currently, terminations are only allowed when a woman's life is at risk. Those who don't have the means to travel sometimes find other ways to have abortions, albeit unsafely and illegally. The laws prohibit abortion while the foetus is live, even if there is a threat to the mother's life.

Some activists held a placard reading "Thank you for making the journey so other women don't have to" a reference to the way Irish women seeking abortions have had to leave the country to obtain them.

"We have seen the culmination of a quiet revolution that's been taking place in Ireland over 20 years", Mr Varadkar said, as he waited for the votes to be counted in Dublin.

"It's not a vote on me, not a vote on the government", Varadkar said this week in Dublin, according to the Financial Times.

The church did not take a stand on the Eighth Amendment referendum or campaign on behalf of retaining it.

The prime minister, a medical doctor who came to power past year, spoke to RTE News in advance of the announcement of the referendum's official results, expected later Saturday.

Johannes Gaultier, 28, travelled from Germany via the United Kingdom to go back and vote no in the referendum. Numerous anti-abortion signs showed photographs of fetuses.

A counting station
PAAn exit poll is a poll of voters taken as they leave polling stations

Some politicians appealing for a "No" vote have suggested in recent days that if the referendum fails, the constitution could instead be amended again to allow for abortions in cases such as rape, incest, and fatal foetal abnormality.

People arriving at polling stations on Friday in more traditional rural areas and city centres spoke about the momentousness of a morally complex decision.

Irish President Michael D. Higgins cast his vote at St. Mary's Hospital in Dublin's Phoenix Park, close to his official residence. "It's an Ireland that is more tolerant, more inclusive and where he can be whatever he wants without fear of recrimination", said Colm O'Riain, a 44-year-old teacher with his son Ruarai, who was born 14 weeks premature in November.

It is commonly viewed to equate the life of a pregnant woman with the foetus, effectively placing a ban on abortion.

If the yes vote succeeds, the Irish Government will be able draft legislation on abortions, and is expected to allow unrestricted terminations for up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

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.

She said she feels the change is overdue and will be voting a firm yes "for choice, for progress, for health, for the women of Ireland who have been oppressed and silenced for too long".

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