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Ireland votes to liberalize abortion laws with 66 percent in favor

Published: Updated:

Ireland voted by a landslide to liberalize its highly restrictive abortion laws as 66 percent of the electorate backed a referendum, official results showed on Saturday.

Voters in the once deeply Catholic nation were asked if they wished to scrap a prohibition that was enshrined in the constitution by referendum 35 years ago, and partly lifted in 2013 only for cases where the mother's life was in danger.

Over 64 percent of eligible voters cast their ballot, one of the highest ever for a referendum.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he planned for a new law to allow abortions to be in place by the end of the year and Health Minister Simon Harris told AFP that the cabinet would meet on Tuesday to approve the drafting of legislation.

Ireland’s current constitution recognizes the “right to life of the unborn” with an “equal right to life of the mother”. Terminations are only allowed if the mother’s life is at risk.

The ban has led to thousands of women travelling each year to neighboring Britain, where terminations are legal, or increasingly turning to abortion pills sold online.

- With Reuters.