CORK, Ireland — Ireland is on course to to legalize abortion for the first time in the country’s history, with two exit polls suggesting that almost 70 percent of people have voted Yes.
Polls by state broadcaster RTE and newspaper the Irish Times indicated that 69.4 percent and 68 percent respectively had voted in favor of repealing the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution which enacts some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the developed world.
Early results from the counting of votes on Saturday backed up the exit polls, with the huge margin of victory for the pro-choice campaign, a major surprise for both sides of the debate. The final tally is expected to be completed Saturday night.
The seismic result would be a complete reversal of the outcome of the 1983 referendum that introduced some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the developed world.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who campaigned for a Yes vote, hailed the result as “the culmination of a quiet revolution that’s taken place in Ireland for the past 10 or 20 years.”
“We are a nation that is not divided, we are united and ready to make this change,” he said.
The result would pave the way for Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution to be repealed and be replaced by proposed legislation which will allow for abortion on request up to 12 weeks.
Minister for Health Simon Harris said Saturday that he hopes a bill legalizing abortion would be published by the end of July, and introduced in the fall. “Under the 8th the only thing we could say to women was to take a boat or a flight, now we are saying take our hand,” said Harris.
The turnout was also higher than expected and is predicted to top 2 million people (out of 3.3. million registered voters) for the first time in the nation’s history. The turnout was bolstered by the thousands of people who traveled home to vote from all corners of the globe — many of whom raised money for plane tickets by crowdfunding on Facebook.
Throughout the campaign there was concern that online disinformation campaigns and dark ads on Facebook would undermine the result, with many experts and lawmakers calling for more regulation for the online space.
Under the proposed government legislation abortion on request will be available to women up to 12 weeks and will require sign-off by two medical practitioners, one of which needs to be an obstetrician. The legislation will also require a 72-hour cooling off period before doctors administer an abortion pill.
A significant number of lawmakers who campaigned for a No vote have already indicated they are willing to now support the legislation as a result of the overwhelming nature of the result.
Cover image: Members of the public hold yes placards on Fairview road as the country heads to polling stations on May 25, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. Polling stations are open across the Ireland where voters will decide whether or not to abolish the 8th amendment which makes abortions illegal in the country, except for circumstances where the mother's life is at risk. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)