Irish anti-abortion campaign concedes it has lost referendum

The main group opposing the liberalization of Ireland's abortion law on Saturday conceded that it has lost Friday's referendum on the issue by an overwhelming margin, a spokesperson said.

The people of Ireland "weighed it in the balance and it came down on one side," John McGuirk, communications director for the Save the 8th campaign told Irish broadcaster RTE. "I obviously would have preferred if they had come down on the other." 

"There is no prospect of the [abortion rights] legislation not being passed," McGuirk added.

Ireland's government has said that if the "yes" side wins, it plans to introduce legislation allowing abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Two exit polls have predicted an overwhelming victory for those seeking to end the country's strict ban on abortion.

The Irish Times and RTE television exit polls suggest two-thirds of voters favour repealing a 1983 constitutional amendment that requires authorities to treat a fetus and its mother as equals under the law.

The 8th Amendment effectively bans abortions, and terminations are currently only allowed when a woman's life is at risk.

Members of a women's Choir for Choice sing in Dublin after hearing exit poll results following the referendum. (Aidan Crawley/EPA-EFE)

The vote represents the culmination of a "quiet revolution" in the country, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Saturday.

"The public have spoken. The result appears to be resounding … in favour of repealing the 8th Amendment," Varadkar told journalists in Dublin. "What we see is the culmination of a quiet revolution that has been taking place in Ireland over the last couple of decades."

"Ireland is a young progressive country and we can be proud of that now … and we aren't governed by one dogmatic viewpoint any more," said Tara Flynn, who gathered with "yes" supporters in Dublin.

Ireland is a majority-Catholic nation and one of the last Western democracies where abortions are almost always illegal.

This was the sixth referendum on the issue in the past 35 years.

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