Abortion Referendum Reaches LA As Stars Weigh In On Divisive Debate

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Exit polls on Ireland's abortion referendum show more than two thirds of voters want to change the country's strict law.

After weeks of anticipation, acrimony and more than a little heated discussion, Irish voters are finally casting ballots Friday to decide a simple yet deeply divisive question: Should the country repeal a constitutional amendment that bans abortion in almost all circumstances?

Ireland adopted the ban in 1983, but support has waned as the country has grown more liberal, legalizing divorce and gay marriage.

"If we don't remove the Amendment from the constitution our doctors and lawmakers can't do anything for women", he said.

The now-controversial Eighth Amendment was introduced after a referendum in 1983.

Chris Garvin, a 20-year-old working in human resources in Dublin, said: "It's a very, very important matter and I think it's going to affect everybody's lives in some way".

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Deputy prime minister of Ireland, Tanaiste Simon Coveney, said in response to the preliminary polling, "Thank you to everybody who voted today - democracy can be so powerful on days like today - looks like a stunning result that will bring about a fundamental change for the better".

"It's not a vote on me, not a vote on the government", Varadkar said this week in Dublin, according to the Financial Times.

The pro-choice campaign had an early lead in opinion polls but lost some of its advantage in recent weeks and experts have predicted the result could be exceptionally close, with many voters still undecided. People in the countryside and small towns tend to be more conservative and more religious.

"The fear of a lot of people on the No side of the campaign is that every time you take the step we are being asked to take, you change the culture of the country".

Four thousand voters were interviewed as they left polling stations during the day on Friday.

"I took it really personally, this vote". "I hope you'll join me in granting those in a crisis pregnancy compassionate access to healthcare in Ireland on Friday the 25th of May by voting YES".

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"The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right", the current amendment states.

Unless the woman's life is in danger, pregnancies can not be terminated, making these laws some of the strictest in Europe, and indeed the rest of the world. But this is not simply a Catholic or Christian issue, he said, since "people of all faiths and none" have come together in a broad coalition of concern, sharing the belief that "innocent human life should be protected".

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who backs the reform, said he was taking nothing for granted as he voted in the capital.

The official referendum vote count isn't expected to be completed until Saturday afternoon local time.

Anyone terminating a pregnancy in Ireland could face 14 years in jail.

There was good weather Friday morning in the capital, Dublin, and much of the country, a factor that could help the "yes" forces in favor of repeal get the heavy turnout they seek.

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Many Irish women seeking an abortion are forced to travel overseas, often to the UK.