DUBLIN — Ireland voted decisively to repeal one of the world’s more restrictive abortion bans, sweeping aside generations of conservative patriarchy and dealing the latest in a series of stinging rebukes to the Roman Catholic Church.
The surprising landslide, reflected in the results announced on Saturday, cemented the nation’s liberal shift at a time when right-wing populism is on the rise in Europe and the Trump administration is imposing curbs on abortion rights in the United States. In the past three years, Ireland has installed a gay man as prime minister and has voted in another referendum to allow same-sex marriage.
But this was a particularly wrenching issue for Irish voters, even for supporters of the measure. And it was not clear until the end that the momentum toward socially liberal policies would be powerful enough to sweep away deeply ingrained opposition to abortion.
“What we have seen today really is a culmination of a quiet revolution that’s been taking place in Ireland for the past 10 or 20 years,” Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said at a counting center in Dublin before the results of Friday’s vote were released, giving an early indication of the final outcome.
“This has been a great exercise in democracy,” Varadkar said, “and the people have spoken and the people have said: We want a modern constitution for a modern country, and that we trust women and that we respect them to make the right decisions and the right choices about their own health care.”
The “yes” camp took more than 66 percent of the vote, according to the official tally, and turnout was about 64 percent.
“Today is a sad day for Ireland and for people who believe in genuine human rights,” the deputy chairwoman of one of Ireland’s biggest anti-abortion groups, Cora Sherlock, wrote in a Twitter message. “The struggle to defend the most vulnerable has not ended today, it’s just changed.”
The vote repeals the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution — a 1983 measure that conferred equal rights on the fetus and the mother and banned abortion under almost all circumstances. Before the referendum, the government had pledged to pass legislation by the end of the year to allow unrestricted terminations up to 12 weeks if the amendment was set aside.
The outcome signaled the end of an era in which thousands of women each year had been forced to travel abroad or to buy pills illegally online to terminate their pregnancies, risking a 14-year jail sentence.