Ireland began voting on Friday in an abortion referendum that could be a milestone on a path of change in a country that, only two decades ago, was one of Europe’s most socially conservative. Polls suggest Irish voters are set to overturn one of the world’s strictest bans on terminations. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, in favour of change, has called the referendum a “once-in-a-generation” chance. Voters in the once deeply Catholic nation will be asked if they wish to scrap a prohibition that was enshrined in the constitution by referendum 35 year ago, and partly lifted in 2013 only for cases where the mother’s life is in danger.
Ireland has been changing fast. It legalised divorce by a razor-thin majority only in 1995, but three years ago became the first country in the world to adopt gay marriage by popular vote.
A decades-old battle over abortion has played out in a fiercely contested debate that divided political parties, saw the once mighty church take a back seat and became a test case for how global internet giants deal with social media advertising in political campaigns.