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Ireland divided over abortion referendum

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Ireland divided over abortion referendum

Ireland anti-abortion campaigners
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Ireland is gearing up for a controversial referendum on whether to relax its constitutional ban on abortion.

And like the Brexit vote in the UK, it’s a hugely divisive issue, turning families and friends against each other.

Yes campaigners have focused on women's rights and the medical dangers they say are created by the constitutional ban.

The No campaign says if the laws are liberalised, it would become an "abortion on demand" service.

Once one of Europe's most socially conservative and staunchly Catholic countries, Ireland has been at the forefront of social change in recent years.

Three years ago it became the first country in the world to vote in favour of same-sex marriage.

Now the country’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar says it’s time the reality was acknowledged and abortion should be integrated safely into women's health care.

He said: ''Nine, 10 women every day travel to the United Kingdom to end their pregnancies and increasingly women are buying pills over the internet and taking them at home, so that is actually quite a dangerous situation.’’

If repealed the Irish government will legislate to allow women to abort legally up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.