IRISH VOTERS REJECT LIFTING BAN ON ABORTION

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Irish voters rejected by a ratio of 2 to 1 a proposal to lift a blanket ban on abortion in Ireland to allow the operation only when a mother's life is at risk, final referendum results showed Saturday.

But they voted by a large majority to give women the right to travel abroad for the operation and to have access at home to information about abortion overseas.

The referendum, held simultaneously with general elections last Wednesday, was prompted by an Irish Supreme Court decision last March allowing a 14-year-old rape victim to travel to England for an abortion.

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Pro-abortion campaigners had urged a "no" vote on the main question, saying Roman Catholic Ireland needed more liberal abortion laws. Anti-abortion activists also opposed the amendment, arguing that abortion was wrong in any circumstances.

But the shape of the new government was far from clear as the last results of the general election trickled in after three days of counting.

Prime Minister Albert Reynolds' ruling Fianna Fail remained the largest party after Wednesday's elections but lost 10 seats and is unable to form a majority government, according to the latest results. Some senior deputies suggested the party should go into opposition rather than seek an alliance.

The opposition Fine Gael party also lost ground as voters eager for change switched the allegiances of decades.

They returned double the number of Labor deputies and a record 20 women to the 166-seat parliament.

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