The Irish have swept aside one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the developed world in a landslide vote that reflects Ireland’s emergence as a socially liberal country no longer obedient to Catholic dictates.
With all ballots counted and turnout at a historic high, election officials reported that 66.4 percent voted to overturn Ireland’s abortion ban and 33.6 percent opposed the measure.
The vote count on Saturday mirrored the results of two respected exit polls, which suggested a decisive win for the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Irish constitution. The 1983 amendment enshrined an “equal right to life” for mothers and “the unborn” and outlawed almost all abortions — even in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormality or risk to maternal health.
“What we have seen today is a culmination of a quiet revolution that has been taking place in Ireland for the past 10 or 20 years,” said Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
The turnout was a record-breaking 64.1 percent — the highest ever for a referendum vote. By comparison, turnout was just over 60 percent when Ireland voted to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015.
Ireland’s political leadership has promised that Parliament will quickly pass a new law guaranteeing unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks, and beyond that in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities or serious risks to a mother’s health. That would bring Ireland’s access to abortion more in line with the other 27 members of the European Union.
Varadkar said the new legislation would be enacted by the end of the year. “The people knew what we had in mind, and I don’t think it would be right to depart from that at all,” he said.