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Ireland votes in abortion referendum

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A referendum on the Republic of Ireland’s abortion laws is under way.

The vote will decide whether to repeal a part of the constitution, known as the Eighth Amendment, which effectively bans terminations in the country.

Currently, abortion is only allowed when a woman’s life is at risk, but not in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormality.

Polls opened at 07:00 local time and votes can be cast until 22:00 on Friday.

The BBC, along with other broadcasters, is not allowed to report details of campaigning while the polls are open.

Residents of Irish islands cast their votes on Thursday, to ensure their votes reached count centres on time.

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More than 3.2 million people are registered to vote in the referendum, with more than 100,000 new voters registering ahead of the poll.

The referendum is the result of a decades-long debate about abortion in the Republic of Ireland and will be the country’s sixth vote on the issue.

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

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Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar casts his vote

It “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” – meaning the life of the woman and the unborn are seen as equal.

After eight weeks of hard campaigning on both sides, it is now decision time for voters.

Media captionThe background and potential outcomes to the Republic of Ireland’s abortion referendum

Ballots will be cast at more than 6,500 stations across the Republic of Ireland.

The ballot paper does not mention the Eighth Amendment or abortion, instead asking: “Do you approve of the proposal to amend the Constitution contained in the undermentioned Bill?”

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Those who want to retain the Eighth Amendment will vote no, while those who want to replace it will vote yes.

The counting of votes will begin on Saturday morning, with a result expected early on Saturday evening.

Ireland votes in abortion referendum

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