Exit polls in Ireland suggest 'landslide' victory for legalizing abortion

Exit poll suggests hugely one-sided result in abortion referendum

Campaigners for change, wearing "Repeal" jumpers and "Yes" badges, gathered at the main Dublin count center, many in tears and hugging each other.

Previously, people with sight loss had to vote with the assistance of a "trusted friend" or from a presiding officer, meaning that they were denied a secret ballot.

Mr O'Gorman said the findings of the exit polls, which shows the yes vote was consistent across rural and urban areas, is not a shock to him. Illegal abortions are fairly common and in many cases go unprosecuted.

Voters are choosing between retaining the Eighth Amendment, which says an unborn child has an equal right to life as the mother, or replacing it to include provision for "the regulation of termination of pregnancy".

One poll by national broadcaster RTE suggested around 70 percent of the electorate have voted to end the country's all but blanket ban on terminations, with another, by The Irish Times, recording 68 percent in favour of ditching the prohibition. It would then fall to Parliament to establish new laws governing abortions.

Chris Garvin, 20, who works in human resources, said: "I'm not going to try and sway people's opinions but it's a very, very important matter and I think it's going to affect everybody's lives in some way".

No social issue has divided Ireland's 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. "I'm very emotional about this", she said, outside a polling station opposite Dublin's cathedral. The consequent prohibition on abortion was partly lifted in 2013 for cases where the mother's life was in danger.

She said the exit polls "paint a bleak picture for retention of the Eighth Amendment".

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Several of Ireland's most prominent politicians, including Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, have raised their voices in favour of repealing the anti-abortion law.

Although not on the ballot paper, the "No" camp sought to seize on government plans to allow abortions with no restriction up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy if the referendum is carried, calling it a step too far for most voters.

Three years on, the country yesterday (May 25) headed to the polls again, in a bid to overturn a law restricting access to abortion in the country.

Thousands of Irish people overseas travelled home to take part in the historic referendum, and supporters of repeal gathered at Dublin Airport to give arrivals an ecstatic welcome.

But pro-abortion campaigners complained that the change made no reference to the impact on a woman's health (as distinct from her life), that doctors were still able to opt out from providing abortions on conscience grounds, and that it provided no solution for women who became pregnant as a result of rape or incest or had a foetus with fatal genetic abnormalities.

She said her vote would be one for solidarity and compassion, "a vote to say, I don't send you away anymore".

Campaigning was not allowed on Friday, but Dublin was still filled with signs and banners urging citizens to vote "yes" or "no". Numerous anti-abortion signs showed photographs of fetuses.

"If we vote "yes" every unborn, wanted and unwanted, will have zero rights", wrote Frances Kelleher, from Killarney.

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