DUBLIN – Exit polls in Ireland project a landslide victory for those seeking to repeal the nation's pro-life Eighth Amendment.
RTE television and the Irish Times exit polls both project the amendment, which protects the life of both mother and unborn baby, will be overturned.
The official vote counts are expected Saturday afternoon.
If the exit polls are correct, Friday's referendum represents a big blow to pro-life activists.
According to The Associated Press, John McGuirk, spokesman for the Save the 8th group, told Irish television Saturday morning that many Irish citizens will not recognize the country they are waking up in.
“You can still passionately believe that the decision of the people is wrong, as I happen to do, and accept it,” said McGuirk. “I don’t think you’ll find many people on our side of the referendum who don’t accept the result. That would be wrong.”
The Eighth Amendment has made abortion in Ireland a criminal offense. A repeal would allow for abortion up to 12 weeks. Irish pro-lifers fear it would quickly turn into abortion on demand, at any time.
The repeal side claims it is about the health and safety of women by allowing them to obtain legal abortions in Ireland, instead of attempting to do it themselves or going outside of the country.
Pro-life activists say Ireland's Eighth Amendment already protects the life of a woman during pregnancy.
"Abortion is not predominantly a medical issue," says, pro-life Irish doctor, John Kehoe.
While some doctors have announced publicly that they support repeal of the 8th amendment for the health and safety of women, Kehoe says women don't need a change in the law to be safer.
"This is not a medical debate in my opinion. This is a social debate," Kehoe says. "This is a debate about choice and this is a debate in my opinion about human rights, the right to life."
Pro-life "Save the 8th" spokeswoman Naihm Ui Bhriain agrees and says bringing abortion to Ireland will not make the country's women any safer.
"The facts show us this: woman are safe in Ireland. They're much safer here than in the United States where abortion is widely available. Any care they need during pregnancy, any intervention they need during pregnancy are given to them under Irish law," she says.