Abortion is set to become legal in Northern Ireland from midnight tonight.
Under the changes, introduced by MPs in Westminster last July in the absence the devolved Stormont Executive, same-sex marriage will become legal and will be introduced from January.
MLAs opposed to the new laws will gather at Stormont this morning, the first time the assembly has sat in almost three years.
However, the gathering will not prevent the new laws coming into force as the MLAs involved do not have the power to appoint a new executive.
The changes after backbench MPs in Westminster added amendments to a routine Commons Bill on the governance of Northern Ireland.
The amendments, which were carried by significant majorities, meant that same sex marriage and abortion would become legal in the North by midnight on October 21st unless the Stormont Executive was restored.
Pro-choice campaigners have welcomed the move as a “watershed moment" for the North – noting that the changes will bring it in line with the Republic of Ireland and Britain.
Meanwhile, anti-abortion campaigners have argued that the changes are being imposed on the North without the people or their representatives being offered a vote on them.
In a last-ditch attempt to stop the move in recent days 31 unionist MLAs signed a petition calling for an automatic recall.
A petition signed by 30 or more MLAs triggers an automatic recall under Stormont rules.
However the gathering is expected to be short and will not prevent the changes coming into force as the support of Sinn Féin and other parties would be needed to appoint an Executive.
Sinn Féin has labelled the gathering a ‘pantomime’ while the SDLP has called it a “cynical piece of cold choreography.”
The Alliance party said it was a “charade.”
The 19th century laws criminalising abortion in the North will now lapse at midnight. The UK Government will then begin work on legislation providing access to abortion services in the region by next April.
In the meantime, women will be offered free transport to access services in England.
Same-sex marriage will be offered in the North from January.
Should the Stormont Executive be restored at some point in the future, it will not be able to reverse the new laws.