Dublin: Ireland appears poised to overwhelmingly overturn a constitutional amendment banning abortion in almost all circumstances, according to an exit poll. The poll released by Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE after polling stations closed on Friday night predicted that 69.4 per cent voted in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment to Ireland’s Constitution and 30.6 per cent “no”.
An exit poll released by the Irish Times pointed to 68 per cent Yes to 32 per cent for No. Indian-origin Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who backed the reforms, said it looked as if the country was about to “make history”, the BBC reported. The official counting was expected to begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, with the final results expected in the afternoon.
The Eighth Amendment, which was added to Ireland’s Constitution following a referendum in 1983, placed the rights of the foetus and the rights of its mother on equal footing, effectively banning abortion barring a “real and substantial risk” to the mother’s life. If the referendum passes, Irish lawmakers are expected to enact legislation allowing for terminations in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy — and later in cases where there is a risk to the mother’s life or the foetus is not expected to survive.
Penny Mordaunt, the UK’s Minister for Women and Equalities, called it a “historic and great day for Ireland and a hopeful one for Northern Ireland”. Northern Ireland’s abortion laws are much stricter than the rest of the UK.
High turnout was seen across 6,500 polling stations in 40 constituencies across the republic. If the final turnout surpasses 60.52 per cent, it will be higher than Ireland’s referendum on same-sex marriage, which passed in 2015. Turnout was over 70 per cent in some areas, RTE reported.
The exit poll showed 69 per cent of men voting and 72.1 per cent of women voting supporting repeal. Support appeared to decrease with age. The exit poll said repeal was supported by 87.6 per cent of voters 18-24 years old; 84.6 per cent of voters 25-34 years old; 72.8 per cent of voters 35-49 years old and 63.7 per cent of voters 50-64 years old.
Voters over 65 were the only age group overall not supporting the amendment, with 58.7 per cent voting no, the poll said. An electorate of more than 3.2 million were eligible to cast their ballots, including thousands of Irish people living overseas who had made the journey home to vote.