(DUBLIN) — Two major exit polls project that Irish voters have voted to repeal the country’s Eighth Amendment, passed by voters in 1983, which effectively bans abortions in the island nation.
One poll, by The Irish Times, projected 68 percent in favor of repealing. Another, by RTE, showed a similar projection of 69.4 percent in favor.
The results followed a contentious and emotional campaign in a deeply Catholic nation, home to one of the world’s strictest abortion bans.
Seeking or providing an abortion in Ireland was a criminal offense that carries up to 14 years behind bars. As a result, thousands of Irish women make the trip abroad, often to England, to have an abortion.
More than 170,000 women traveled from the Republic of Ireland to access abortion services in another country between 1980 and 2016, according to the Irish Family Planning Association.
As the vote date approached, the debate between the two sides had grown deeply contentious, which, in part, motivated a lot of Irish ex-patriots to fly home from around the globe to cast their ballots — many posting their positions on social media beside the hashtag #HomeToVote.
Repealing the amendment means that abortion could be regulated as it is in both the United States and the United Kingdom, clearing the way for Ireland’s government to implement more liberal abortion laws. Lawmakers are now expected to debate proposed legislation allowing abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and after that in cases of fetal abnormalities or serious risks to the mother’s health.
The vote pitted conservative backers of strict abortion restrictions against those supporting a woman’s right to choose.
The Yes campaign was supported by Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, though neither of the largest political parties took a side in the debate, allowing individual politicians to make up their own minds. The No side was largely backed by so-called pro-life groups — the most prominent being The Iona Institute, a socially conservative Roman Catholic advocacy group.
As the vote date approached, the battle between the two sides grew increasingly vicious, with both Yes and No campaigns being accused of illegal removing each other’s street posters.
The heated, emotional campaign saw limits placed on social media advertisements nationwide, with Facebook and Google banning campaign ads after concerns from experts that some campaign ads were funded by U.S. based anti-abortion groups.
Following a 2015 vote, Ireland legalized same-sex marriage.
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