High turnout in Ireland as voters decide abortion referendum

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Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar accused campaigners opposing a referendum on liberalising Ireland's abortion regime of trying to dupe voters into thinking the government could still change the laws even if they voted "No". The Women's RIghts Foundation, a Maltese non-governmental organisation that has supported the Irish Yes vote, said it will refrain from commenting until the Irish referendum results are official.

Mr Varadkar claimed Ireland was united - with men and women, almost every age group and every social class opting for reform in Friday's referendum.

Dublin voter Helen, 47, who did not want to give her surname and is now unemployed after suffering cancer, said her radiation treatment would have been stopped had she been pregnant, under existing laws giving equal right to life to expectant mothers and unborn babies.

"Women and girls should not be made into healthcare refugees when they are in a time of crisis", said Niamh Kelly, 27, who paid 800 euros and travelled 20 hours to return home from Hanoi where she works as an English teacher.

The exit polls suggest that 77 percent of people in Dublin voted Yes - but so did 60 percent of people in the countryside.

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In 2017, the Citizens' Assembly, a body set up advise the Irish government on constitutional change, voted to replace or amend the part of Ireland's Constitution which strictly limits the availability of abortion.

Her death first reported in The Irish Times in November 2012, galvanised a new generation of young women to campaign for the repeal of the 8th Amendment from the Constitution. It would mean the once-Catholic country would "join that sad community of nations who throw away irreplaceable human beings through abortion on demand".

"I took it really personally, this vote, and said I'm going to come out today and vote for what I believe in". Abortions after 24 weeks are allowed only if the woman's life is at risk or the child would be born with a severe abnormality.

"The Eighth Amendment to our Constitution gives protection to the most vulnerable and voiceless members of our society", the letter added.

Mr Varadkar, who called the referendum, was among the first to cast his ballot when polling stations opened.

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Ireland's pro-reform health minister Simon Harris used RTÉ radio to address the tens of thousands of women forced to travel overseas for abortions. The pollster says it interviewed some 4,000 people and the survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.

The newspaper exit poll indicated overwhelming support for change.

Still, the country remains predominantly Roman Catholic, and the church has come out strongly against the measure. Getting an illegal abortion within Ireland can lead to a life sentence in prison. Currently, abortions are banned in Ireland unless the pregnancy poses a substantial risk to the mother's life.

In addition to this, the case of Savita Halappanavar also sparked debate around Ireland and the world watched as the Galway dentist died following complications from a septic miscarriage, after she was denied an abortion.

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