AMN / DUBLIN
A constitutional ban on terminating pregnancies was overturned with the support of two-thirds of voters in a referendum on Friday.
Under a constitutional amendment adopted in 1983, abortion is allowed only when a woman’s life is at risk, but not in cases of rape or for other reasons. This has led many Irish women to travel abroad, mainly to Britain, to terminate their pregnancies.
The final count was released on Saturday and showed 66.4 percent of voters in favor of repealing the amendment and 33.6 percent against.
The Irish parliament is expected to enact a law by the end of the year to legalize abortion.
Ireland, a predominantly Catholic country, has long upheld traditional, family-oriented values.
However, the country legalized same-sex marriage in 2015 and openly gay Varadkar became prime minister last year.
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The Republic of Ireland, in the words of Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar, will no longer export its abortion problem to Britain or import its solution.
It is estimated that nine women travel to Great Britain every day for terminations, while four women buy abortion pills over the internet without medical supervision, risking a jail term of up to 14 years.
The hopes of 1983 that Ireland could become a beacon light in the fight against abortion were never realised.
In the intervening years, more than 170,000 Irish women have left the state to end their pregnancies.
While hard cases may make for bad law, over the years they certainly changed public opinion on this most controversial and sensitive of issues.
Controversial cases have included rape and incest, in which victims were told they were not entitled to a legal termination.
There was also the case of a brain-dead pregnant woman who was briefly kept alive against the wishes of her family until a court decided the foetus or unborn would not survive after a caesarean section.
And many women who were given a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality, where doctors believe the unborn will not survive outside the womb, have shared their stories of travelling to Britain to end their pregnancies.