The referendum asked Irish voters whether they agreed with repealing the Eighth Amendment, a constitutional provision banning abortion that was introduced after another referendum in 1983.
The RTE television and Irish Times exit polls are only predictions, with official tallies due Saturday afternoon, but both exit polls suggested an overwhelming victory for abortion rights activists seeking a "yes" vote to change the constitution. The Irish government has proposed that if the eighth amendment is repealed, abortion will be allowed up to 12 weeks and between 12 and 24 weeks in exceptional circumstances.
Chris Garvin, 20, who works in human resources, said: "I'm not going to try and sway people's opinions but it's a very, very important matter and I think it's going to affect everybody's lives in some way".
"Under Irish law, if there's no evidence of risk to the life of the mother, our hands are tied as long there's a foetal heart [beat]", a consultant said, according to The Guardian.
But as Ireland heads to the polls, there's been a swell of support from some of the country's most famous faces.
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Abortion will remain illegal in the country in nearly all circumstances until Ireland's legislative body, the Oireachtas, passes a law legalizing the practice nationwide. They called it a once-in-a-generation opportunity to liberalise some of Europe's strictest abortion rules. "Equal healthcare is why I'm voting "Yes", said Joanna Faughan, 33, voting in the north Dublin suburb of Castleknock where queues formed before polls opened at 0600 GMT.
At the same time he admitted some people who might be viewed as conservative on this issue will vote to repeal the Eighth as a "screw you" to the Catholic Church.
Thousands of Irish citizens living overseas traveled home to vote in the referendum, which did not have a postal vote option. The RTE poll used similar methods and projected the "yes" vote to be almost 70 per cent.
The 53-year-old, who found fame with his sisters Andrea, Sharon and Caroline in Irish folk-rock band The Corrs, claimed the vote was a means for the pharmaceutical industry to profiteer from abortion. If the "yes" vote is confirmed, Ireland's parliament will be tasked with writing new regulations on abortion. After that, the woman can have abortion if she still intends to terminate her pregnancy.
The singer, 38, took to Instagram on Thursday to post a picture of a badge released as part of the pro-choice campaign, captioning the shot: "IRELAND: #repealthe8th #togetherforyes". The consequent prohibition on abortion was partly lifted in 2013 for cases where the mother's life is in danger.
A subsequent referendum made it legal for women to travel to have abortions, and for information about abortions to be provided (previous to this, ads for abortion providers had been cut out of the pages of United Kingdom women's magazines that were imported into Ireland) but the ban on abortion was not rolled back.