Voting begins throughout Ireland in major abortion decision

Voters throughout Ireland have begun casting votes in a referendum that may lead to a loosening of the country's strict ban on most abortions.

The referendum Friday will decide whether the eighth amendment of the constitution is repealed, which would open the way for more liberal legislation.

The amendment, in place since 1983, requires authorities to equally protect the right to life of a mother and that of a fetus, from the moment of conception.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar tweeted his support for the bill before a moratorium on campaigning took effect Thursday. He urged people to vote "yes" in favor of repeal.

Results are not expected until Saturday afternoon or evening.

Voting has already taken place on Ireland's offshore islands.