Lead for Irish abortion reform narrows with eight days to go

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish voters who favor liberalizing abortion laws maintain a strong lead with eight days to go until a referendum, but the gap over those who oppose the change is narrowing, an opinion poll showed on Thursday.

Irish voters will be asked on May 25 whether to liberalize the abortion laws. It is the first opportunity in 35 years to overhaul one of the world's strictest regimes, which has long divided the once deeply Catholic nation.

The Irish Times/MRBI poll found that 44 percent would vote to repeal an amendment to the constitution that enshrines the equal right to life of the mother and her unborn child, with 32 percent opposed.

A further 17 percent are undecided, with 5 percent not intending to vote and 2 percent refusing to answer. Of the undecided voters, 31 percent said they were "leaning towards" repealing, with 24 percent leaning toward keeping the amendment.

When the same poll asked three weeks ago whether voters would support a change allowing the government to legislate for abortion on request up to 12 weeks - the regime it hopes to introduce after the vote - 47 percent were in favor and 28 percent against.

The poll shows a strong conviction among those who have already decided with 65 percent "absolutely never going to change my mind" and 22 percent "extremely unlikely to change my mind".

Support for change was strongest among younger voters, women and those living in urban voters.

(Reporting by Graham Fahy; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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