[QODLink]
Europe
N Ireland opens abortion clinic amid protests
Marie Stopes family planning centre will offer the abortion pill to women who are less than nine weeks pregnant.
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2012 15:05
Marie Stopes expects to provide relatively few abortions in Northern Ireland due to heavy legal restrictions [Reuters]

The first abortion clinic in Northern Ireland, to be run by a British charity that already operates such clinics in more than 40 countries, has opened in Belfast.

The clinic, which was opened on Thursday, has sparked protests by both the Catholic and Protestant sides of Northern Ireland.

The Marie Stopes family planning centre will offer the abortion pill to women who are less than nine weeks pregnant, but only if doctors determine they are at risk of death or long-term health damage from their pregnancy.

That is the law in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, where abortion is otherwise illegal.

Ahead of the opening, more than 200 protesters gathered outside the central Belfast clinic waving placards reading "Keep Ireland abortion free".

Protesters demanded that the clinic be shut down.

"Women's health is not in danger. Women are not dying because they cannot get abortions,'' Bernadette Smyth, the Protestant leader of a Belfast anti-abortion group called Precious Life, said.

Relatively few abortions

Officials from Marie Stopes said they expect to provide relatively few abortions in Northern Ireland, given the heavy legal restrictions.

But they said Belfast, and all of Ireland, needed a non-judgmental, non-threatening place where women in crisis pregnancies could go for guidance.

They said their office was already receiving calls from women in the Republic of Ireland, where it's illegal to receive shipments of the abortion pill through the mail.

"Mostly what we'll be doing is offering advice. Many of the people we see we won't be able to treat, because of the legal framework," said Tracey McNeill, vice-president of Marie Stopes.

The Roman Catholic Church, the largest church in both parts of Ireland, this week launched a monthlong campaign to press the Irish government to strengthen its constitutional ban on abortion.

It has denounced the Belfast clinic's opening but shied away from calling for protests.

"We are in the middle of a struggle for the soul of Northern Ireland," Bishop Donal McKeown, the senior Catholic in Belfast, said.

He said Marie Stopes directors were seeking "to promote the acceptability of abortion".

344

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
Report on child sex abuse in British Asian community highlights issues that may affect the entire nation.
Taliban makes quick gains in Afghanistan with little opposition from Afghan army as US withdrawal begins.
Analysts say China moving back toward 1950s-era public trials aimed at shaming and intimidation.
Record numbers of migrants have made harrowing sea journeys to Italy and Greece this year.
In Vietnam, 40 percent of all pregnancies are terminated each year, a rate that health officials are hoping to reduce.
join our mailing list