Northern Ireland’s first private abortion clinic is set to open this week, even though the Province has strict laws against abortion.
Currently abortion is basically illegal in Northern Ireland except to save the life of the mother.
Sexual health charity, Marie Stopes, is running the clinic, and claims they will provide terminations within Northern Ireland’s strict legal framework.
NI Health Minister Edwin Poots has said he is seeking legal advice to determine how the service will be monitored.
But pro-life campaigners want it to be shut down before it opens.
Bernadette Smith, of Precious Life, is “absolutely outraged”.
She said: “An organisation which is making profits from the death of unborn children is not welcome in Northern Ireland. There will be an outcry from the people, from government and from the churches.”
She added: “There is no demand for Marie Stopes in Northern Ireland. The figures for women seeking an abortion have been coming down.”
The location of the clinic is unknown to the public, to avoid protests outside.
The terminations, costing £450, will involve taking tablets and will have to meet criteria set by two doctors, according to Dr Paula Franklin, medical director with Marie Stopes.
Dawn Purvis, the centre’s programme director and former Progressive Unionist Party leader, said the clinic was prepared for any possible controversy.
She said: “we would hope that any client who comes to us can do so and access those services freely, safely and can come to a centre that will be supportive and non-judgemental.”
Jim Allister, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party, questioned the need for a private clinic.
He said: “If they are going to operate within the parameters of the law, and do so accurately, why would anyone go to them when they can have that service, if they need it, under the law and have it free under the National Health Service?”
The clinic has revealed that their services will be available to women from the Republic of Ireland, where currently abortion is also illegal, unless there is risk to the mother’s life.
A 24-week limit for abortion applies in England, Wales and Scotland. Last year, over 1000 women travelled from Northern Ireland to England and Wales for terminations.