As Ireland Votes on Abortion, Here’s What You Need to Know

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Ireland voted overwhelmingly to liberalise some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe on Friday, according to an exit poll in a historic referendum in the traditionally Catholic country.

Voters were asked whether to repeal the Irish constitution's eighth amendment - which gives mother and the unborn an equal right to life - and give the parliament the ability to legislate on abortion. I hope that today Ireland will vote yes for that freedom.

Ireland's deputy prime minister, Tanaiste Simon Coveney, said the referendum had made him proud to be Irish.

Still, the country remains predominantly Roman Catholic, and the church has come out strongly against the measure.

Ireland appears poised to overwhelmingly overturn a constitutional amendment that bans abortion in nearly all circumstances, according to a exit poll.

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.

Videos shared on social media showed scores of voters arriving home at Irish airports from overseas.

Each year, it's estimated 3,500 Irish women travel overseas, mostly to Britain, to terminate pregnancies - and about 2,000 more illegally obtain abortion pills or administer the procedure themselves.

Today, Irish citizens are voting on a referendum to repeal the country's abortion ban.

The Referendum Commission‏ tweeted a simple message about Friday's vote: "The debate is over and now everyone should make sure their voice is heard by voting". The two most recent surveys showed the "Yes" side pulling further ahead.

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The law on abortion is enshrined in the country's constitution, which can be changed only by referendum.

The vote also is a key indicator of Ireland's trajectory, three years after the country voted to allow same-sex marriages and a year after its first openly gay prime minister took office. "I'm very emotional about this", she said, outside a polling station opposite Dublin's cathedral.

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. "It's a vote as to whether we trust the women of Ireland to make decisions about their own lives for themselves".

But in the small town of Kilcullen, some 50 kilometres (32 miles) southwest of Dublin, voter Sean Murphy said: "I don't see any reason to change from the position we are in at the moment".

At a press conference organized by Together for Yes, the mother of a 25-year-old woman with type-one diabetes and polycystic ovaries-who had been taking contraceptive pills, recently hospitalized with a serious illness, and told by doctors that an unplanned pregnancy could be unsafe for her-shared a story about ordering abortion pills for her daughter on the internet.

In a heartwarming trend, dozens of good Samaritans back home in Ireland have offered to sponsor strangers who otherwise can't afford to get home to vote.

The referendum on the issue rose towards the top of the political agenda after the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012.

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People hold placards as Ireland holds a referendum on liberalizing its law on abortion, in Dublin, Ireland, May 25, 2018.

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