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Wednesday August 15th, 2018 7:04PM

The Latest: Irish PM plans to move quickly on legal abortion

By The Associated Press
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DUBLIN (AP) — The Latest on the Irish abortion referendum (all times local):

6:45 p.m.

The prime minister of Ireland says the passage of a referendum paving the way for legalized abortions is a historic day for his country and a great act of democracy.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said after official results showed more than two-thirds of voters backed repealing Ireland's constitutional abortion ban that he wants to make sure there are fewer crisis pregnancies and better sex education in schools going forward.

Varadkar had supported repeal and said his government will move quickly to establish new legislation to govern legal abortions.

He said: "I said in recent days that this was a once in a generation vote. Today I believe we have voted for the next generation."

Varadkar added: "The wrenching pain of decades of mistreatment of Irish women cannot be unlived. However, today we have ensured that it does not have to be lived again."

___

6:15 p.m.

Final results from a referendum show that Irish voters have overwhelmingly supported repealing their country's constitutional ban on abortions and having parliament enact laws that reflect the popular vote.

Elections officials said Saturday more than 1.4 million voters favored repealing the ban while roughly 724,000 wanted to keep it in place. More than 66 percent of voters wanted an end to the ban.

The outcome was a historic victory for women's' rights in a traditionally Catholic country. The size of the win exceeded expectations and will make it much easier for Irish women to obtain abortions legally for the first time.

The vote removes a 1983 amendment that required Irish authorities to defend the lives of a woman and a fetus equally on almost all abortions.

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5:25 p.m.

The apparent repeal of a constitutional ban on abortions in the Republic of Ireland may increase pressure on Northern Ireland to follow suit.

A lifting of the 1983 amendment that required Irish authorities to defend the lives of a woman and a fetus equally would leave Northern Ireland among a small number of places in Europe where almost all abortions are illegal.

Abortions approved by doctors are allowed in the rest of Britain until the 24th week of pregnancy, but not in Northern Ireland.

U.K. Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable and other politicians said Saturday it is time for Northern Ireland to change as well.

Cable said: "The position in Northern Ireland is now highly anomalous and I think, probably, action will now have to be taken."

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5:05 p.m.

The current running tally on referendum results from Ireland shows more than 1.3 million votes in favor of repealing the country's constitutional ban on abortions, and roughly 650,000 opposed.

Nearly all of the voting regions counted so far backed repeal of the 1983 amendment and making parliament responsible for enacting abortion laws.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar plans to speak to supporters of the winning "Yes" campaign within 30 minutes of the final vote count.

All of Ireland's 40 voting regions tallied so far voted in favor of doing away with the amendment, which required authorities to defend the lives of a mother and a fetus equally. Since 2014, abortion has been legal only in rare cases when a woman's life is in danger.

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2:10 p.m.

The first official results for Ireland's landmark abortion referendum have begun to come in, indicating a landslide win for abortion rights campaigners is likely in diverse constituencies across the country.

The first to declare was Galway East, a traditionally conservative constituency in the west that nonetheless returned a large majority for repealing the abortion ban by a 60.2 percent to 39.8 percent vote.

Results from urban centers were even more decisive. Dublin Central posted 76.5 percent for repeal, while two constituencies in the southern capital of Cork City polled 64 percent and almost 69 percent.  

Officials say a final national result for Friday's referendum may not be declared until early Saturday evening. From morning, however, it has seemed clear that overnight predictions of a massive vote for constitutional change were accurate.  

Ireland's unique grassroots system called "The Tally" has seen volunteers monitor the contents of ballot boxes as they were being opened at counting centers throughout the country. Donegal, in the northwest of the country, is the only county in Ireland where Tally men and women think the "no" vote might narrowly prevail.  

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1:30 p.m.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has praised the apparent victory in the abortion referendum as "the culmination of a quiet revolution" that has been unfolding in the past 10 to 20 years.

"The people have spoken," said Varadkar, who campaigned for repealing Ireland's constitutional ban on abortions. "The people have said that we want a modern constitution for a modern country, that we trust women and we respect them to make the right decision and the right choices about their health care."

The prime minister, a medical doctor who came to power last year, spoke to RTE News in advance of the announcement of the referendum's official results, expected later Saturday.

He said there appears to be "a greater than 2-to-1 majority in favor of amending our constitution." He said that majority reigned among both men and women, almost all age groups and social classes, and perhaps every constituency in the country.

___

1 p.m.

A leading campaigner for repealing Ireland's constitutional ban on abortions says it's a "monumental day for women in Ireland" after voters appeared to have overwhelmingly backed liberalizing the country's strict abortion laws.

Orla O'Connor, co-director of the Together for Yes group, said Saturday: "This is about women taking their rightful place in Irish society, finally."

Votes for Friday's historic referendum are still being counted, but two exit polls predict a landslide victory for those who want to repeal the constitutional ban on abortions. A leading anti-abortion group admitted defeat Saturday.

O'Connor said the vote is a "rejection of an Ireland that treated women as second-class citizens. This is about women's equality and this day brings massive change, monumental change for women in Ireland, and there is no going back."

___

12 noon

Ireland's Minister for Children and Youth Affairs says she is grateful and emotional over with the apparent decision of voters to repeal the constitutional ban on abortions in Friday's landmark referendum.

Katherine Zappone said Saturday she is confident new abortion legislation can be approved by parliament and put in place before the end of the year.

"I feel very emotional," she said. "I'm especially grateful to the women of Ireland who came forward to provide their personal testimony about the hard times that they endured, the stress and the trauma that they experienced because of the eighth amendment."

The eighth amendment requires authorities to treat a fetus and its mother as equals under the law, effectively banning abortions. Currently, terminations are only allowed when a woman's life is at risk.

Exit polls predict overwhelming support for the repeal of the constitutional ban. Officials results are expected Saturday afternoon.

___

10:40 a.m.

One of Ireland's leading anti-abortion groups says the abortion referendum result is a "tragedy of historic proportions" in a statement that all but admits defeat in the historic vote.

Spokesman John McGuirk of the Save the 8th group — which refers to the Eighth Amendment in the constitution that bans abortions — told Irish television Saturday that many Irish citizens will not recognize the country they are waking up in.

The official vote tally for Friday's vote has not been finished but exit polls predict a massive victory for repealing the constitutional ban.

McGuirk said it will now be relatively easy for the government to pass more liberal abortion laws in the parliament.

"There is no prospect of the legislation not being passed," he says.

The government proposes that women be allowed to terminate pregnancies in the first 12 weeks.

___

7 a.m.

Official counting is set to begin in Ireland's historic abortion rights referendum, with two exit polls predicting an overwhelming victory for those seeking to end the country's strict ban.

The Irish Times and RTE television exit polls suggest the Irish people have voted to repeal a 1983 constitutional amendment that effectively bans abortions. Currently, terminations are only allowed when a woman's life is at risk.

The exit polls are predictions only, with official results expected Saturday afternoon. Paper ballots must be counted and tallied.

If the "yes" forces seeking a constitutional change prevail as the polls suggest, Ireland's parliament will be charged with coming up with new abortion laws.

The government proposes to allow abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy with later terminations allowed in some cases.

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