World Bulletin / News Desk
The referendum will decide whether to replace the Eighth Amendment, which considers the life of an unborn child equal to that of the mother's and makes impossible for any government to pass legislation for the termination of pregnancies.
Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar, who has campaigned for the Yes campaign said there would not be a second chance to vote on the issue of abortion for a “long time”.
“A No vote would send out the wrong message, not just to women but to society,” he said.
Currently, there is a near-total ban on abortions in Ireland. Only when the mother's life is in danger can an abortion be performed.
If passed, the new constitutional article would state that the parliament may provide for the termination of pregnancy in accordance with the law.
The draft legislation is expected to make abortion possible for women who are up to 12 weeks pregnant.
The No campaign described the proposed legislation “the most far-reaching abortion laws any Irish government has ever proposed in the history of the State”.
Abortion has been one of the most controversial issues for the Catholic-majority Irish community.
The Catholic Church opposes any kind of abortion but campaigners have argued that women should have an option to terminate unwanted pregnancies and thousands of women travel abroad for abortion every year.
According to statistics by the U.K. Department of Health, a total of 168,705 Irish women traveled to the U.K. to end unwanted pregnancies from 1980 to 2016.
The polling stations across the country opened at 7.00 p.m. (8:00 GMT) and the voting will end at 10.00 p.m.