Attorney General seeks inquiry into Belfast Marie Stopes clinic
The Northern Ireland Attorney General has called on the Stormont Executive to investigate Belfast’s first private abortion clinic, which opens today (18 October).
The opening of the Marie Stopes clinic has been met with strident opposition from the public, politicians and religious leaders.
There are stronger safeguards around abortion in Northern Ireland than there are in the rest of the UK. It is not covered by the 1967 Abortion Act.
The procedure is only legal in exceptional circumstances; to preserve the life of the mother or where there is a risk of permanent physical or mental health effects.
Any woman who wants an abortion must consult with two clinicians who provide an assessment.
Marie Stopes has said that its Belfast clinic will operate within the legal boundaries that already exist in Northern Ireland.
It has also said that its own clinicians will make the assessments for women who come to the clinic, although the opinion of the woman’s GP will be considered.
Attorney General John Larkin has written to the Stormont Justice Committee, asking them to look into the clinic’s operations.
Mr Larkin, who is the top legal advisor to the Northern Ireland Executive, sent his letter to the committee’s chairman. In it he explained that in his official capacity he could not intervene but in his non-statutory position as guardian of the rule of law he can be involved.
Mr Larkin offered assistance which included acting as legal counsel and questioning witnesses on their behalf.
Last week, NI Legislative Assembly member Jim Allister said: “The only circumstances under which abortion is legal in Northern Ireland is where there is a threat to the life of the mother.
“This means that abortion in Northern Ireland is exceedingly rare. With such provision under the NHS there is no need or room for an abortion clinic, unless in reality it plans a wider service”.
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