Huge turnout predicted in Kildare referendum vote on Eighth Amendment this Friday

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Ireland expected the higher-than-usual voter turnout to continue into the evening on Friday as Irish citizens headed to ballot boxes in droves and women living overseas returned to their home country to weigh in on a measure that would repeal the Eight Amendement of the Irish Constitution, which bans abortion unless a pregnant woman's life is at risk.

That effectively bans all abortions in Ireland, except in cases when the woman's life is at risk.

The survey, conducted by the polling firm Ipsos/MRBI for the Irish Times, suggests that the "Yes" vote to repeal the eighth amendment will win by a fairly stunning margin of 68 to 32 percent, defying expectations of a closely divided electorate.

Deputy prime minister of Ireland, Tanaiste Simon Coveney, said in response to the preliminary polling, "Thank you to everybody who voted today - democracy can be so powerful on days like today - looks like a stunning result that will bring about a fundamental change for the better".

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who is in favour of change and has called the referendum a once-in-a-generation chance, said earlier on Friday that he was "quietly confident" that the high turnout was a good sign. However, the Catholic Church's influence has waned in recent years following a series of child sex abuse scandals.

Ireland appears poised to overwhelmingly overturn a constitutional amendment that bans abortion in nearly all circumstances, according to a exit poll.

Counting does not begin until Saturday morning, with official result expected later in the day.

"Yes" campaigners like Coveney have argued that with over 3,000 women travelling to Britain each year for terminations and others ordering pills illegally online, abortion is already a reality in Ireland.

The people of Ireland are set to decide on whether to end the country's strict abortion ban.

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Activists were out on a final push for votes on Thursday, attempting to convince wavering voters in what has been an emotionally-charged campaign. The No side was largely backed by so-called pro-life groups - the most prominent being The Iona Institute, a socially conservative Roman Catholic advocacy group.

"I knew I had to spend this money that I didn't have", she said.

"In 1983, the country held a referendum which established this amendment.if Ireland votes to repeal that law, the government has promised to introduced legislation legalizing abortion with some limitations".

Ireland does not give its expatriates absentee ballots or the option to vote in embassies.

Unless the woman's life is in danger, pregnancies can not be terminated, making these laws some of the strictest in Europe, and indeed the rest of the world. Thirty-two percent of voters opposed the repeal. Since then, roughly 170,000 Irish women have traveled to other countries to have pregnancies terminated. If the "yes" vote is confirmed, Ireland's parliament will be tasked with writing new regulations on abortion. "I've a family myself and I think it's really important", said John Devlin, a marketing worker in his 50s voting No near Dublin's city centre. The government proposes that terminations be allowed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

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In the region of 120,000 people have added their name to the supplementary voting register in recent weeks and thousands of people have travelled home from overseas to cast their votes.

"I do not believe the smart people of Ireland want this unrestricted, abortion-on-demand bill".

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