Ireland appears poised to overwhelmingly overturn a constitutional amendment that bans abortion in almost all circumstances, according to an exit poll.
The poll released by Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE shortly after polling stations closed on Friday night predicted that nearly 70% voted in in favor of repealing the Eighth Amendment to Ireland’s Constitution. The RTE exit poll shows 69.4% voting “yes” and 30.6% “no.”
Exit polls are not based on the actual counting of ballots. Official counting begins Saturday at 9 a.m. (4 a.m. ET), with the final results expected late afternoon.
The Eighth Amendment, which was added to the constitution following a referendum in 1983, places the rights of the fetus and the rights of its mother on equal footing, effectively banning abortion barring a “real and substantial risk” to the mother’s life.
If the referendum ultimately passes, Irish lawmakers are expected to enact legislation allowing for terminations in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy — and later in cases where there is a risk to the mother’s life or the fetus is not expected to survive.
If early indications are wrong, and a No vote is secured, Ireland’s abortion laws — some of the strictest in the developed world — will be kept in place.
High turnout was seen across 6,500 polling stations in 40 constituencies across the republic Friday. If the final turnout, which will be released Saturday, surpasses 60.52%, it will be higher than Ireland’s referendum on same-sex marriage, which passed in 2015. Turnout was over 70% in some areas, RTE reported.
The exit poll showed 69% of men voting and 72.1% of women voting supporting repeal.
Support appeared to decrease with age. The exit poll said repeal was supported by 87.6% of voters 18-24 years old; 84.6% of voters 25-34 years old; 72.8% of voters 35-49 years old; and 63.7% of voters 50-64 years old.
Voters over 65 were the only age group overall not supporting the amendment, with 58.7% voting no, the poll said.
An electorate of more than 3.2 million were eligible to cast their ballots Friday, including thousands of Irish people living overseas who had made the journey home to vote.
Voters throughout the country were graced with beautiful weather all day, and a mixed atmosphere of excitement and anxiety was felt at polling stations.
Jerry Moynihan voted at the Two Mile Community National School in Killarney, in Ireland’s rural southwest. He told CNN he was happy to be exercising his democratic right and spoke about how this referendum felt different to him, referencing Ireland’s historical connection to the Church.
“It’s an important day for Ireland. I think it’s a very Irish thing. It isn’t the Church anymore that’s dictating to us. I think it’s a moral thing for the Irish [to decide]. It’s not a Catholic thing anymore,” he said.