A pro-life healthcare provider is planning to open a centre near to Northern Ireland’s only private abortion clinic, according to the BBC.
The announcement comes as DUP MLA Jim Wells is trying to change the Criminal Justice Bill in order to prevent abortions taking place in private clinics.
His proposed amendment makes clear that anyone who performed an abortion ‘for fee or reward’ at a private medical centre would be unable to have a defence against the criminal charge of abortion.
Close to 6,000 people have already expressed support for Wells’ amendment through an online petition.
Stanton Healthcare, which has clinics in Idaho and California, is planning to open its first centre outside the US on Great Victoria Street in Belfast.
The firm does not carry out abortions, but offers pregnancy counselling, ultrasound scans, pregnancy tests and childbirth education classes.
Stanton Healthcare says that over 90 per cent of women who are open to abortion but have an ultrasound at one of their clinics choose to give birth.
Bernadette Smyth, from pro-life group Precious Life, said the clinic has the “full support” of the pro-life movement in Northern Ireland, and is a “new revolution in pregnancy care”.
“The potential is there to take away from Marie Stopes in that women will get real care and real options, and that is not happening at the moment”, Smyth added.
Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland except to save the life of the mother.
A Marie Stopes abortion clinic opened in Belfast in October 2012, amidst widespread criticism.
At the time, the leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party Jim Allister 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?”