Pro-life demonstrators stand outside the Supreme Court in Central London in 2018. New laws legalizing abortion and same-sex marriage started in Northern Ireland Tuesday. Photo by Will Oliver/EPA-EFE
Oct. 22 (UPI) -- A last-ditch effort by the Democratic Unionist Party to block British government reforms on same-sex marriage and abortion failed Monday, allowing both to become legal in Northern Ireland for the first time on Tuesday.
The new laws, which went into effect at midnight, ended the practice of women from Northern Ireland traveling to England to get abortions. Activists said they expect the first same-sex marriage to happen there around Valentine's Day 2020.
"This is a hugely significant moment and 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," Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland campaign manager, said in a statement.
"No longer will those experiencing crisis pregnancy, who need to access abortion, feel they need to conceal what they're going through. Finally, our human rights are being brought into the 21st century. This will end the suffering of so many people," Teggart continued.
DUP leadership, though, vowed to keep fighting the laws. Party leader Arlene Foster said she will examine "every possible legal option" to stop the measures.
"Until this moment, until this day in Northern Ireland, the safest place for an unborn child was in the sanctuary of its mother's womb," Jim Allister of the Traditional Unionist Voice, which also supported blocking the measures. "Sadly (now) the most dangerous place for some unborn will be in the mother's womb because the wanton decision can be taken to kill them."
Sinn Fein Party deputy leader Michelle O'Neill, though, called the last-second effort to block the new laws "pointless."
"Sinn Fein welcomes the end of the denial of the right of our LGBT brothers and sisters to marry the person they love," O'Neill said. "Sinn Fein also welcomes the end of the archaic law criminalizing women."