Second exit poll projects large victory for Yes side in Abortion Referendum

by Garry Watts May 26, 2018, 15:28
Second exit poll projects large victory for Yes side in Abortion Referendum

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.

People pass a mural as Ireland goes to the polls to vote in the referendum on the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution.

Reacting to the exit polls, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, a vocal proponent of liberalisation, tweeted on Friday night: "Thank you to everyone who voted today".

Friday's referendum follows months of bitter debate between "Yes" and "No" campaigners on whether or not the country's Eighth Amendment - which acknowledges the embryo's right to life "with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother" - should be scrapped.

Religious conservatives pressed for a constitutional amendment to strictly ban abortion, which was passed by referendum in 1983.

But no social issue has divided its 4.8 million people as sharply as abortion, which was pushed up the political agenda by the death in 2012 of a 31-year-old Indian immigrant from a septic miscarriage after she was refused a termination.

Tara Flynn, who 11 years ago flew to the Netherlands for an abortion she could not get at home, said she planned to vote "yes" to make sure future generations of women don't endure what she did.

Anti-abortion activists on the "No" side said the Eighth Amendment had saved thousands of lives and focused in particular on preventing the abortion of fetuses with genetic abnormalities.

Flynn, 48, said the experience left her feeling isolated, filled with shame, and excluded.

GETTY    
     REFERENDUM Ballot papers are handled as officials count votes in the Irish referendum
GETTY REFERENDUM Ballot papers are handled as officials count votes in the Irish referendum

"At no stage has the government held out its hand to these women and said, 'How can I help you?" Those living on the Atlantic islands cast their ballot a day early to help prevent delays in transportation and counting the ballot papers. "I'm very emotional about this", she said, outside a polling station opposite Dublin's cathedral.

Nevertheless, given the extent to which he has thrown his weight behind "yes", many observers regard this vote as a referendum partly on the popularity of his still-young tenure as premier. Irish women who want abortions now must to travel overseas to have them.

After that, abortions will only be allowed until the 24th week of pregnancy if there is a risk to a woman's life, or a risk of serious harm to the physical or mental health of a woman.

Women accessing illegal abortions can receive a maximum 14-year jail sentence, but the law allows them to travel overseas for an abortion, resulting in several thousand Irish women travelling to the United Kingdom each year to terminate their pregnancies.

The effective prohibition on abortion in Ireland was partially lifted in 2013 for cases when a mother's life was in danger.

Many contend that criminalising abortion does not stop it.

Later abortions would be allowed in special cases. Thirty-two percent of voters opposed the repeal.

"We set about creating a space in which people could discuss abortion in a safe and comfortable way, which recognised this was a hard, complex and sensitive matter, and that it wasn't black and white".

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