Updated at 1:51 p.m. ET
DUBLIN—It was clear a big change was coming to Ireland even as the final votes were still being tallied: Exit polls Friday night showed an overwhelming majority of Irish citizens had voted “Yes” to overturn their country’s constitutional ban on abortion. And on Saturday, it was official.
It was supposed to be a much closer contest, and the overwhelming margin in the final tally conflicted with polls leading up to the vote, which seemed to show a public about evenly split on the issue. In the end, roughly 66 percent of Irish voters supported repealing the Irish constitution’s Eighth Amendment, which outlawed abortion by giving an unborn fetus equal right to life to that of a pregnant woman. Just about half that number—roughly 33 percent—voted to maintain the abortion ban.
The historic decision not only repeals the Eighth Amendment, but it also gives Irish lawmakers permission to write new laws governing abortion access to take its place. Though it’s impossible to know exactly what the law will look like ahead of time, Ireland’s Health Minister Simon Harris has given us an idea of what to expect: The government will propose allowing women to seek abortions up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy, after which terminations will only be permitted in the event of a fatal fetal abnormality or if the pregnancy poses a fatal or serious risk to the woman’s physical or mental health. The new law is expected to be enacted by the end of the year.