Irish Vote to Liberalize Abortion Law, Exit Poll Signals

A Pro Choice poster urging a 'yes' vote in the referendum to repeal the eighth amendment of the Irish Constitution seen near Ha'penny Bridge in Dublin's City Center

Irish Church urges voters to reject abortion and protect life

An exit poll is a poll of voters taken as they leave polling stations, which asks citizens how they voted.

Ireland looks set to "make history" by liberalising some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said as votes in the hard-fought referendum were counted on Saturday.

The result would appear to indicate a sea change in Irish attitudes to women's rights in the intervening 35 years, since the ban on abortion was enshrined in Ireland's constitution with the support of 67 percent of the nation's voters in 1983.

A statement from the Save the 8th campaign, a group which fought against the legalization of abortion in Ireland, called the vote a "tragedy of historic proportions", but commended those who stood up for the right to life, saying "we are so proud of all those who stood with us in this campaign".

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.

Counting is still underway, and an official result is expected later today.

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"The public have spoken".

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar praised the historical vote as a "culmination of a quiet revolution that has been taking place in Ireland for the past 10 or 20 years".

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

Its repeal will mark a significant victory for women's rights in a country that only legalised divorce in 1995.

"For him [his son], it's a different Ireland that we're moving onto".

John McGuirk, spokesman for the Save the 8th group, told Irish television that many Irish citizens will not recognize the country they are waking up in.

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Support came not only from major cities like Dublin but rural areas.

It read: 'The state acknowledges 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.' This gave equal rights to the mother and the unborn, but did not ban abortion. Terminations are only allowed if the mother's life is at risk. Others sang songs in the sunshine outside the main Dublin results centre as they awaited the official result.

For decades, the law forced more than 3000 women to travel to Britain each year for terminations and "Yes" campaigners argued that with others now ordering pills illegally online, abortion was already a reality in Ireland.

Savita, from India but living in Ireland with her husband Praveen, died at University Hospital Galway in 2012 after a septic miscarriage at 17 weeks.

A survey of 4,000 voters for The Irish Times newspaper put the pro-choice camp ahead by 68 percent to 32 percent, while a second exit poll of 3,800 voters by national broadcaster RTE put the margin at 69 percent to 31 percent.

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