Irish Voters Set To Liberalize Abortion Laws In Landslide, Exit Poll Signals

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

Leo Varadkar, Ireland's prime minister, or taoiseach, leaves a Dublin polling station after casting his vote in Friday's referendum.

Ireland has been changing fast.

Ireland legalized divorce by a razor-thin majority only in 1995, but became the first country to adopt gay marriage by popular vote in a 2015 referendum.

This data, which confirms what conservatives have long-argued and what liberals have repeatedly denied, also directly contradicts the message of standard abortion propaganda, both here (#ShoutYourAbortion, anyone?) and overseas ("Repeal the 8th", the tagline for Ireland's referendum to repeal their abortion ban).

"I have found it hard, I have stumbled but I have met extraordinary women and men along the way who have changed my perspectives on this deeply emotive issue".

In 1992, women were officially given the right to travel overseas, mostly to the United Kingdom, to obtain terminations.

But today the country will vote in a landmark referendum to decide whether to repeal the legislation and make abortion before 12 weeks legal.

As campaigning drew to a close, Fianna Fail TD Mary Butler, who is part of the Love Both group reiterated her belief that the government has "cynically used the tragedies of certain people to push through the most extreme abortion law ever proposed in this country by any Irish". The two most recent surveys showed the "Yes" side pulling further ahead.

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Yet the Irish Times exit poll showed overwhelming majorities in all age groups under 65 voted for change, including nearly nine in every 10 voters under the age of 24.

An Irish Times exit poll released Friday night projected a landslide victory for those who want to loosen abortion laws, but official results are not expected until Saturday afternoon. Those living on the Atlantic islands cast their ballot a day early to help prevent delays in transportation and counting the ballot papers.

Canvassers were out on the streets holding up signs and wearing t-shirts, mindful of the law requiring them to stay at least 50 metres from a polling station. "One of my best friends had to do it". After that, the woman can have abortion if she still intends to terminate her pregnancy. "She had to get a flight to Liverpool with her parents".

"We will never again have a more important vote", Bukley said. "Equal healthcare is why I'm voting "Yes", said Joanna Faughan, 33, voting in the north Dublin suburb of Castleknock where queues formed before polls opened at 0600 GMT.

Colm, who works in the pharmaceutical industry, which is a major employer in nearby Athlone, said he voted no because he doesn't trust politicians to protect the life of the unborn. "Often times, the narrative of choice is a false narrative".

Catholics are split on the subject, with 45 percent supporting abortion up to 12 weeks and 40 percent opposed, contrasting with 69 percent support and 26 percent opposition amongst those with no religion. "I'm one of the lucky ones", he said. Ireland does not allow expatriates to vote via post or in embassies but those away for less than 18 months remain on the electoral roll. Analysts said a high turnout, particularly in urban areas, would likely favour the "Yes" side.

"I feel like I've waited all of my adult life to have a say on this". "But that's what everybody thought when Brexit happened". Just like we are capable of choosing contraception, choosing to use consent, choosing how we vote. But Irish law did not allow termination of pregnancy, even if it put Savita's life in danger.

Friends star showed her support for the yes when she tweeted a video in which Irish stars like Tom Vaughan-Lawlor and Saoirse Ronan pleaded with viewers to vote in favour of repealing the eighth.

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