Ireland narrowly rejected a referendum to close a loophole in the country's strict abortion laws. The Irish government and Catholic church had strongly backed the motion.
Ireland will not tighten its already strict laws on abortion
In a referendum on abortion, the People of Ireland have narrowly rejected a government attempt to make it even more difficult for women to terminate pregnancies.
In the poll, voters vetoed a government motion to scrap a loophole in Ireland's tough anti-abortion law.
The loophole was created in 1992 when a 14-year old was made pregnant by a close family friend. At that time, a court ruled that women who became suicidal due to their pregnancy should be able to have abortions.
The rejection of the motion was a major embarrassment for the Irish government and for the powerful church in the overwhelmingly Catholic country. Both had hoped the referendum would further tighten the strictest abortion curbs in the European Union.
Irish Prime Minister Ahern's center-right government had used billboards to try to convince voters to support the amendment. Television advertisements attempted to explain current law and the proposed restrictions. And the church last Sunday sent a powerful message to its flock to turn out to vote "yes".
But there was also strong reaction against the proposed legislation from some women's groups.
Turnout for the referendum was significantly lower than in the country's last referendum on abortion, ten years ago.
Bad weather in many parts of the country seems to have deterred many voters. In Dublin and its suburbs, officials said the average turnout was about 35 percent.