Leo Varadkar urges high turnout in abortion referendum

Ireland's Taoiseach has called for a high turnout in Friday's abortion referendum.

Leo Varadkar urged employers to allow workers time off to vote as the Republic goes to the polls on repealing the Eighth Amendment of the constitution which restricts access to the procedure.

If the country votes yes the Government intends to allow terminations within the first 12 weeks, subject to medical advice and a cooling-off period, and between 12 and 24 weeks in a restricted fashion.

Mr Varadkar said: "I do hope in this referendum we will see more people taking part in this, an exercise in democracy."

He said some voters were still undecided.

"Ultimately laws are just written in black and white, they are text in a piece of law but what has to be behind those laws is individuals, people's families and how those laws have affected them in the process."

He encouraged people to consider some of the real, lived experiences of some who dealt with Ireland's restrictive abortion law.

Mr Varadkar said people were illegally accessing abortion pills and travelling abroad for procedures anyway and it would be better to regulate it in a compassionate way in Ireland.

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The Taoiseach said if people voted yes the proposed laws would mean a 72-hour period for women to reflect on their decision to have an abortion before the procedure goes ahead.

He told the Dail parliament in Dublin that women would be able to receive an abortion pill from their doctors following an informed decision.

"This is a good example of new politics working, listening to citizens, cooperating on an all-party basis and then putting a proposal to the people."

Mr Varadkar said abortion rates in Ireland were falling and less women were travelling abroad for the procedure. Teenage pregnancies were at their lowest rate since the 1950s.

He attributed that to state funding for crisis pregnancy centres, sex education in schools, wider availability of contraception and the morning after pill.

The premier said it was ironic that those most opposed to the law change were those who had also opposed all the measures which had made abortion less common.