Dublin, May 26: Ireland's pro-life "Save The 8th" campaign has conceded defeat in the country's historic abortion referendum after exit polls reported a landslide win for those advocating liberalisation.
The Friday vote saw citizens effectively opt to either retain or repeal the Eighth Amendment of the country's Constitution, which prohibits terminations unless a mother's life is in danger.
The Save the Eighth group said: "What Irish voters did yesterday is a tragedy of historic proportions... However, a wrong does not become right simply because a majority support it."
An exit poll released by Ireland's national broadcaster RTE after polling stations closed predicted that 69.4 per cent voted in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment and 30.6 per cent "no".
Another by the Irish Times, 68 per cent voted in favour of ditching the prohibition. While the official result was expected later in the day, it appeared Ireland was on the cusp of a defining moment in its social history.
The Together For Yes organisation said: "This is a vote for dignity and decency." "If exit polls are reflected in the official vote count later today, this will be a moment of profound change in Ireland's social history, a moment when the nation collectively stood up for women and for their healthcare and voted for constitutional change."
Indian-origin Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, reacting to the exit polls, said it looked as if the country was about to "make history".
The "Save The 8th" campaign's spokesman John McGuirk said the people of Ireland had "weighed it in the balance and it came down on one side", the Independent reported.
"I obviously would have preferred if they had come down on the other... There is no prospect of the (abortion rights) legislation not being passed," he said.
An electorate of more than 3.2 million was asked to cast their ballots, including thousands of Irish people living overseas who had made the journey home to vote. The Eighth Amendment was introduced via a referendum in 1983.
High turnout was seen across 6,500 polling stations in 40 constituencies across the republic. If the final turnout surpasses 60.52 per cent, it will be higher than Ireland's referendum on same-sex marriage, which passed in 2015. Turnout was over 70 per cent in some areas, RTE said.