Ireland, once seen as one of the most socially conservative countries in Western Europe, is poised to end its highly restrictive abortion ban.
The decision came after a historic vote, in which a landslide majority of the country voted to repeal the country’s Eighth amendment, which established an “equal right to life” for mothers and the “unborn,” and banned abortion even in cases of rape and incest, or where the pregnancy was a risk to the mother.
Emotions ran high — and so, too, did celebrations.
Early reports showed a turnout as high as 70 percent in some areas, potentially the highest recorded ever for a referendum. When Ireland had its historic referendum on same-sex marriage, the turnout hovered at around 60 percent.
Exit polls showed repeal voters, known as “Yes voters,” winning by a margin of over two to one. Many Irish voters returned home to cast their votes, captured in the hashtag #HomeToVote.
Researchers estimate that approximately 3,500 Irish citizens travel to England every year to have abortions, while another 2,000 order abortion pills from the internet.
“What we’ve seen is the culmination of a quiet revolution that’s been taking place in Ireland over the past 20 years,” Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said of the vote.
Varadkar said the Irish legislature will now move to repeal the Eighth Amendment and enact a new abortion law by the end of the year.
“The unborn child no longer has a right to life recognized by the Irish state. Shortly, legislation will be introduced that will allow babies to be killed in our country. We will oppose that legislation,” John McGuirk, spokesman for Save the Eighth Campaign, said in a statement.
Others were more euphoric.
Critics note that Northern Island still has the most restrictive abortion laws in the United Kingdom. That, for some, is the next chapter in the fight to liberalize Ireland.
WATCH: Irish people are pouring in from across the globe to vote in a ‘once in a generation’ abortion referendum