In the weeks leading up to Ireland’s referendum on legalizing abortion, polls indicated that up to one-fifth of the country’s population was undecided, putting a question mark next to the vote’s probable outcome.
But an exit poll late Friday (May 25) from the Irish Times showed that Ireland voted in a landslide to repeal the 8th amendment to its constitution, paving the way for legal abortion in the predominantly Catholic country.
Irish cities voted overwhelmingly to repeal the ban, as expected. But exit polls showed that rural areas also voted in favor of legalizing abortion by 60%, a far greater margin than either side anticipated. A full 70% of women supported the repeal, as did 65% of men.
“I’m just so proud that Irish people have showed their trust in women and that change is coming. If [the exit poll] is accurate, it’s beyond my expectations,” said Suzanne Leen, a Limerick-based mother who campaigned for the repeal.
The 8th amendment to Ireland’s constitution, which became law in 1983, gives unborn children equal rights as their mothers. It effectively outlawed all pregnancy terminations in the country, except in cases where the mother’s life was immediately in danger. Even still, women in Ireland have died from pregnancy complications after being denied abortions as recently as 2012, when a dentist named Savita Happalanavar died in Galway during a natural miscarriage that turned septic.
An estimated 170,000 Irish women are believed to traveled abroad to terminate their pregnancies since 1980.