[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
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Featured
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Since she was 16-years-old, Scottish Nationalist Party's Sturgeon has strove for independence from the UK.
Armed group's ransom success with German hostages marks a re-emergence, as authorities investigate ISIL links.
Western nations are moving into the resource-rich country after decades of disinterest, challenging China's interests.