Support for the repeal was felt most strongly among the youngest voters — the poll noted that 87 percent of those aged between 18-24 voted to repeal the constitutional ban.
The Irish Times poll sampled some 4,000 voters as they were leaving voting stations Friday night. A second exit poll, by RTE/Behaviour and Attitudes, found nearly identical results, showing 69 percent voting for the repeal and 31 against. Votes are expected to be counted on Saturday morning, with an official result to be declared later that day.
Wanting to have their say in the matter, thousands of Irish citizens traveled back home to take part in the referendum — some from thousands of miles away.
— Joanne Byrne (@jolisby) May 25, 2018
— Avril Wall (@theres_WALLY) May 25, 2018
— Mark O' Brien (@oaksmokeandbbq) May 25, 2018
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In 2012, Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist living in Ireland, died after her request for an abortion was denied by a medical team, even though she was suffering a miscarriage, as her life was not deemed in danger. The miscarriage took five days, and Halappanavar developed sepsis, which killed her. Halappanavar's death triggered massive protests and was one of many stories that helped push the conversation on the legalization of abortions.
The Eighth Amendment, which was added to the constitution in 1983, grants equal rights to both pregnant mothers and fetuses and "acknowledges the right to life of the unborn," according to Bloomberg. Currently, abortions are banned in Ireland unless the pregnancy poses a substantial risk to the mother's life. Some 170,000 Irish women are believed to have traveled to the UK for abortions between 1980 and 2016, according to data from the UK Department of Health compiled by Ireland's Solidarity Party.
The referendum, if passed, would allow abortions up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy and in limited circumstances later, where fatal fetal abnormalities are present.
Ireland, a country with a deep connection to its Roman Catholic roots, didn't see open access to contraception until the 1990s and only legalized divorce in 1995.