DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland is set to liberalize some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world after exit polls suggested a crushing vote for change in what was until recently one of the countries most socially conservative in Europe.
While the vote count began on Saturday morning, LoveBoth's official anti-liberalization campaign admitted that polls painted "a grim picture" of their efforts to retain a ban constitutionally imposed in a referendum of 1983.
"It's a yes," read a cover story in the country's best-selling newspaper, the Irish Independent, which described it as "a massive moment in the social history of Ireland."
An exit poll by the Irish Times / Ipsos MRBI suggested that voters in the once deeply Catholic nation had backed the change on Friday by 68 percent to 32 percent. A survey of RTE / Behavior and Attitudes put the margin between 69 and 31 percent.
Voters were asked if they want to eliminate a 1983 amendment to the constitution that gives an unborn child and its mother the same rights to life. The resulting ban on abortion was lifted in part in 2013 in cases where the mother's life was in danger.
If confirmed, the result will be the last milestone in a path of change for a country that only legalized divorce by a slim majority in 1995 before becoming the first in the world to adopt gay marriage by popular vote. three years.
] "It seems we will make history tomorrow," Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, a supporter of the change, said on Twitter on Friday.
The vote count began at 0800 GMT throughout the country on Saturday, with the first indication of the expected results mid-morning. Activists for the change, wearing "Repeal" jumpers and "Yes" badges, gathered in the main center of Dublin, many crying and hugging.
A senator from the opposition Labor Party that oversees the recount told Reuters that the first counts suggested that the opinion polls were accurate.
"The exit poll would say it is bang on," said Kevin Humphries, a former youth minister who campaigned for increased access to abortion.
No social issue has divided Ireland's 4.8 million people as abruptly as abortion, which was pushed to the political agenda by the death in 2012 of a 31-year-old Indian immigrant from a septic abortion after that the dismissal was rejected.
Activists left flowers and candles in a large mural of the woman, Savita Halappanavar, in the center of Dublin.
The exit poll of the Irish Times showed overwhelming majorities in all age groups under 65 voted in favor of change, including almost nine out of 10 voters under the age of 24.
The fiercely contested vote divided the political parties, saw the once powerful church lag behind, with the campaign defined by women on both sides who publicly describe their personal experiences of layoffs.
Although not on the ballot, the "No" camp tried to take advantage of the government's plans to allow unrestricted abortions up to 12 weeks of pregnancy if the referendum is held, calling it a step too far for most the voters.
The result is likely to be followed by a battle in parliament over how exactly access to abortion will increase.
"We will keep the Taoiseach (prime minister) on his promise that the repeal would only lead to abortion in very restrictive circumstances, he gave his word on this, now he must comply," said Dr. Ruth Cullen, a LoveBoth anti-abortion activist. .
Additional report by Graham Fahy