Marie Stopes set to open its first abortion clinic in Belfast
One of Britain’s largest abortion providers, Marie Stopes, is due to open a private abortion clinic in Northern Ireland on 18 October.
The move has been greeted with significant opposition from Northern Irish residents, pro-life groups and politicians.
Abortion laws are considerably tighter in Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK.
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.
Jim Allister, Member of the NI Legislative Assembly, 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”.
He told BBC Radio: “Where is the need for this clinic? There could not possibly be one.
“So there are ulterior motives and I suspect the ulterior motives might be to try and push the boundaries”.
Bernadette Smyth from pro-life group Precious Life said that she would take legal action and lodge a formal complaint with the police.
She said: “I will be in communication with the government to ensure any plans to destroy the life of an unborn child are stopped immediately. There is no demand for Marie Stopes in Northern Ireland”.
Telegraph columnist Peter Mullen wrote: “This looks like the thin end of a very fat wedge to me. How long before regulations in that province are ‘brought into line’ with those operating in the rest of the UK?”