In a historic, victorious, and somewhat unexpected day for women and LGBTQ+ activists, both abortion and same-sex marriage have finally been decriminalized in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland has long remained opposed to the rest of the United Kingdom on both these issues, and for decades, people have been fighting for the rights over their own bodies and sexualities.
And, in a sudden U-turn move on Monday, MPs voted to upturn their archaic laws by legalizing abortion and same-sex marriage, therefore giving thousands of Irish people the rights they've been tirelessly fighting for the last few decades for.
For decades, Northern Ireland has remained the only part of the United Kingdom to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage.
via: GettyUnder archaic laws that date back to the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, both abortion and same-sex marriage have long been considered as criminal acts in Northern Ireland.
Very much like the 'heartbeat' bill recently passed in Alabama...
via: GettyAbortion has only ever been permitted when there is a risk to the life of the mother or a serious risk to her physical or mental health.
But why has Northern Ireland remained opposed to the rest of the U.K's stance on the matter?
via: GettyThe Abortion Act of 1967 legalized abortion on certain grounds in Great Britain, but this did not extend to Northern Ireland. Therefore, any changes in abortion laws for Northern Ireland had to be made there under their own legal system.
This law has resulted in thousands of women seeking illegal abortions elsewhere...
via: GettyThis meant that many desperate women resorted to traveling overseas in order to get a safe termination.
The rest of the U.K. has been offering to help these women...
via: GettyGovernment plans in England offered to help Irish women with their travel costs to come and get safe terminations in their country.
But this played no role in changing Northern Ireland's archaic laws.
via: GettyBecause the rest of the U.K's stance on the matter has absolutely no influence on Irish law.
And this isn't the only issue Northern Ireland has been facing...
via: GettyNorthern Ireland has also been the only part of the United Kingdom that opposes same-sex marriage.
The U.K. made same-sex marriage legal back in 2013.
via: GettyThe Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013, which allows same-sex marriage in England and Wales, was passed by the U.K. Parliament in July 2013 but, much like their abortion law, the bill didn't extend to Northern Ireland.
However, change has been sought after for years.
via: GettyFor decades now, Irish people have been fighting for the rights over their own bodies and the rights over their sexualities.
But now, Northern Ireland has finally being brought into line with the rest of the U.K. and the modern world...
via: GettyAs the country has now passed a bill that legalizes both abortion and same-sex marriage.
It was a landslide, yet sudden, victory.The sudden change of heart in parliament came after an eleventh-hour attempt by the region’s assembly to block change completely collapsed.
And it lead to a historic day for the country.
Abortion campaigners rejoiced.
via: Getty“The beginning of a new era for Northern Ireland – one in which we’re free from oppressive laws that have policed our bodies and healthcare," said Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland campaign manager.
And it was a huge day for the LQBTQ+ community, also.
We’re so proud to be surrounded by some of the people, couples and campaigners who have brought us to this point.… https://t.co/ImBwF9LqF8— Love Equality NI (@Love Equality NI)1571662512.0
The changes came into effect as the clock struck midnight on Monday.
via: GettyAnd Northern Ireland rejoiced as the chiming of the clock marked a momentous day for social change.
The changes are expected to come into force almost immediately...
via: GettyFor same-sex marriage, the new legislation puts the House of Commons on track to legislate for marriage equality by January 2020, paving the way for same-sex couples to wed from February 14th – Valentine’s Day. The abortion law obliges the UK to ensure regulations for free, legal and local abortion services are in place by March 31st 2020.
However, not everyone is so pleased with the new law.
via: GettyPro-life groups have argued the changes have come into practice without anyone in Northern Ireland being able to vote in favor or against them. Some people urged the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) to restore the devolved government by compromising on Irish language legislation in a desperate bid to block the updated abortion law.
The DUP fought tirelessly to make sure the bill wouldn't be passed.
Yeah sex is great and all but have you ever watched the DUP futilely begging to stop gay marriage and abortion beco… https://t.co/2upiUka9YP— Zing Tsjeng (@Zing Tsjeng)1571731037.0
And some people couldn't help but poke fun at the DUP...
Arlene Foster looking out her window at a brand new Northern Ireland with equality for LGBTQ+ people https://t.co/n4X55YGO5A— Ireland Simpsons Fans (@Ireland Simpsons Fans)1571746422.0
Today will go down in history.
via: GettyNorthern Ireland is the most recent country to take a step in the right direction for women's and LGBTQ+ rights... Who will be next?