Belfast. Northern Ireland is to legalise abortion and same-sex marriage as the midnight deadline passed amid failing last-minute efforts to block the legalisation. 'Women's right to a safe abortion and equal marriage have now become legal in Northern Ireland. This is a historic moment. Thank you to all of the campaigners and Labour MPs who have worked tirelessly to achieve this momentous victory for equality and human rights," UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote on Twitter in the early hours of Tuesday.
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Before midnight, anti-abortion lawmakers tried to elect a new Speaker, but their attempts failed and multiple parliament members left the Stormont sitting. Therefore, as the midnight deadline passed, Section 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which made abortion a criminal offense in Northern Ireland.
Specific regulations for legal abortion services in Norther Ireland are expected to be created by March, 2020, while same-sex marriage regulations should be in place by January of next year, according to Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith.
Meanwhile, Arlene Foster, DUP leader, called it a "sad day" with regards to the changes to the abortion law, which is seen in Northern Ireland as the most contentious of the two topics.
"I know some people will seek to celebrate and I would say to those people think of those of us who are sad today and who believe that this is an affront to human dignity and to human life," she said.
Previously, women in Northern Ireland could only legally access an abortion when the pregnancy would cause a long-term and serious risk to the mother's physical or mental health.
It meant that women with non-viable pregnancies, or who had become pregnant as a result of incest or rape, either had to carry the pregnancy to term or risk criminal prosecution by travelling overseas for an abortion, buying abortion pills online or by going to a potentially unsafe, illegal clinic at home.