By Saturday, we’ll know the results. The referendum on the right to abortion opened this morning at 7 a.m. in Ireland, and will close at 10 p.m. The counting will begin on Saturday morning. The only exceptions are a few small islands, where voting began Thursday.
Voters are being asked whether they intend to repeal the eighth amendment of the constitution, which, by equating the rights of the fetus with those of the mother, prevents abortion in all situations, except where the mother’s life is in danger.
If the Yes vote wins, the government has promised to propose a law by the summer, so that parliament can vote by the end of the year. The draft legislation presented before the referendum provides for the introduction of the right to unconditional abortion up to 12 weeks after conception. If the No vote wins, it may be years before another referendum will be called.
Speaking in front of the parliament, Irish conservative Prime Minister Leo Varadkar reiterated his support for Yes, saying that “if Yes wins, Ireland would remain the same country as before, only more compassionate.”
Indeed, compassion was one of the main themes of the official campaign, so that even the most moderate electorate could be called upon. The two main opposition leaders, Micheál Martin of Fianna Fáil and Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féin, strongly lobbied Varadkar.
According to the latest surveys, Yes is ahead but by a narrow margin compared to the previous month. Therefore, the undecided will play a decisive role. It is appropriate that Varadkar recalled that the referendum introducing divorce in 1995 was won by only 10,000 votes: one for each ballot box.