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The newspaper commissioned the poll which gauged the votes of 4,000 people leaving polling stations at 160 different locations, encompassing all 26 counties.

According to an exit poll released just moments after voting closed, the Irish have decided overwhelmingly to repeal the eighth amendment to their national constitution, which undergirds the strongest anti-abortion provisions in any Western country. The survey by pollster Ipsos-MRBI says 68 per cent of voters backed repeal of the ban and 32 per cent opposed it.

At the end of an emotional campaign, marked by stories of the pain and suffering caused by the abortion ban, many Irish women and men reported crying tears of joy at the apparent revelation that the repressive Ireland they had grown up in was, as one put it simply, "dead". Hundreds of Labour members have flown to Ireland, potentially sharing the same plane as a woman returning home after having a safe abortion, to campaign for accessible abortions at home in Ireland. That said, with a result of that magnitude, clearly there was very little to be done.

"If the vote passes it would be another social-change milestone for Ireland after it legalized contraception (1979), divorce (1995), and same-sex marriage (2015)", USA Today reports. A woman would seek a abortion from a doctor or other medical professional, who would have a legal obligation to discuss the woman's options with her.

Katie Ascough, a spokesman for the Love Both campaign, insisted, "I'm confident that the Irish people will reject this extreme proposal, and force the government to come up with a better plan than abortion for healthy mothers with healthy babies in Ireland".

"Trust Women" was scrawled on the pavement outside the polling station in Dublin as voting opened.

"I think there are a lot of people who are reluctant to speak their minds".

The referendum vote is expected to be a close contest in the largely Catholic nation.

Under current law, abortion is allowed if the mother's life is in danger. Vote-counting begins early on Saturday, with the first indication of results expected mid-morning.

Currently, the 8th amendment, a clause in the Irish constitution, gives equal right to life of the mother and the unborn. Akkamahadevi says that though she was in the hospital, she had checked with her brother to find out if her parents had reached home safely.

"I feel like I've waited all of my adult life to have a say on this", she said. Today's vote will test how Ireland weighs women's lives against the rules of the church.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who backs the reform, said he was taking nothing for granted as he voted in the capital.

Anyone terminating a pregnancy in Ireland could face 14 years in jail. If the 8th is repealed, it would allow for abortion without restrictions up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

"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.

Health minister Simon Harris, whose proposed abortion laws were subjected to intense scrutiny during the campaign, tweeted: "Will sleep tonight in the hope of waking up to a country that is more compassionate, more caring and more respectful".