Irish voters cleared the way for abortions to be legal in their country for the first time by repealing a constitutional ban on the procedure and authorizing legislators to reflect the popular will by giving pregnant women a choice, results from a landmark referendum showed Saturday. Voters in Friday's referendum supported rescinding the ban, adopted in 1983 as the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution, by 66.4% to 33.6%, the AP reports. The size of the win for abortion rights exceeded expectations and was cast as a historic victory for women's rights. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, speaking after the official tally was announced at crowded Dublin Castle, hailed the momentous outcome as a "once in a generation vote" that showed the electorate's concern "for the next generation."
"The wrenching pain of decades of mistreatment of Irish women cannot be unlived," says Varadkar, who backed repeal. "However, today we have ensured that it does not have to be lived again." Opponents of the repeal movement conceded defeat on Saturday morning after exit polls from the night before suggested more than two-thirds of voters had backed repeal. John McGuirk, spokesman for the Save the 8th group, told Irish television Saturday that many Irish citizens would not recognize the country in which they were waking up. The group said on its website that the referendum's outcome was a "tragedy of historic proportions," but McGuirk said the vote must be respected. "You can still passionately believe that the decision of the people is wrong, as I happen to do, and accept it," he says.
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