Anti-abortion group admits defeat in Irish vote

Geneva Stokes
May 26, 2018

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. But John McGuirk, spokesman for the Save the 8th group - which refers to the eighth amendment in the constitution which effectively bans terminations - told Irish television Saturday morning that many Irish citizens will not recognize the country they are waking up in.

"If exit polls are reflected in the official vote count later today, this will be a moment of profound change in Ireland's social history, a moment when the nation collectively stood up for women and for their healthcare, and voted for constitutional change". How do you feel about the result? What do you think will happen next? "That would be wrong".

Yet the Irish Times exit poll showed overwhelming majorities in all age groups under 65 voted for change, including nearly nine in every 10 voters under the age of 24.

The fiercely contested vote divided political parties, saw the once-mighty church take a back seat, with the campaign defined by women on both sides publicly describing their personal experiences of terminations. The projections also suggest that the public vote on abortion rights has received higher support than the 2015 referendum on marriage equality, which was backed by 62 per cent of voters.

But the Yes camp, which portrayed itself as modernising and in step with global opinion, insisted repeal would demonstrate Ireland's compassion for thousands of Irish women forced to travel to England for the procedure. "Democracy in action. It's looking like we will make history tomorrow", he said in a tweet after the exit polls were released. The strongest backing came from youthful voters - the exit poll says the only age group in which a majority voted "no" were voters who are 65 or older. An RTE/Behaviour & Attitudes survey put the margin at 69 percent to 31 percent.

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She said the "pro-life movement will rise to any challenge it faces" and resist what she called the trend toward abortion on demand.

If the "yes" forces seeking a constitutional change prevail as the polls suggest, Ireland's parliament will be charged with coming up with new abortion laws.

The exit polls are predictions only, with official results expected Saturday afternoon.

Ministers have promised to allow terminations within the first 12 weeks, subject to medical advice and a cooling-off period, and between 12 and 24 weeks in exceptional circumstances.

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