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Northern Ireland set to legalize abortion, same-sex marriage

Traditionally conservative Northern Ireland is about to legalize both abortion and same-sex marriage, a head-snapping about-face that was imposed on the territory by the British Parliament.

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The changes, bitterly resisted by anti-abortion and church groups, were mandated in an amendment to a routine bill on governance of Northern Ireland that Parliament passed in July amid a power vacuum created by the collapse of the region’s governing assembly nearly three years ago.

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The amendment will go into effect at midnight on Monday, weeks after the High Court in Belfast rebuffed a legal challenge, ruling that Northern Ireland’s 158-year-old abortion laws are incompatible with the United Kingdom’s human rights commitments.

The judgment was a major victory for women’s rights activists, who had felt left behind after the Republic of Ireland voted to legalize abortion last year.

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Although Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, and the majority of its people say they would like abortion to be made available, the regional power-sharing government had blocked abortion reform before collapsing in 2017 over sectarian divides.

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