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World watches as Ireland holds historic vote that could overturn strict abortion law

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Mockingbird    2,780

DUBLIN — Prime Minister Leo Varadkar urged people voting Friday in Ireland's abortion referendum to remove the country's "legacy of shame" toward women by overturning the strict abortion law  that fiercely divides this Catholic nation. 


"If we don't remove the (Eighth) Amendment from the constitution, our doctors and lawmakers can't do anything for women. They can't do anything for women who have been raped, who are children themselves or who have been given the heartbreaking news of fatal fetal abnormality," Varadkar said.


The vote is expected to be an extremely close contest, with polls closing at 10 p.m. local time (5 p.m. ET). The result of the highly controversial issue is expected Saturday afternoon.


Fine weather over much of the country, including the capital Dublin, could translate to a high turnout that would favor those who want to change Ireland's abortion law. 


Currently, abortion is only allowed in Ireland if a women's life is at risk.  A "Yes" vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which states that a fetus has an equal right to life as the woman, would mean that Irish women would be able to get an abortion at up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.


It would be a major step for a country where almost 80% of the population still strongly identify as Catholic.


An average of nine women travel every day from Ireland to the United Kingdom, where abortion is legal, to terminate pregnancies, according to the Irish government. Three women each day take abortion pills bought online, risking a 14-year jail sentence.


"If the referendum doesn't pass, these women will continue to have to travel abroad in their thousands," Varadkar said.




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