Abortion Clinic To Open in Belfast

It was announced today that the Marie Stopes charity will be opening a sexual health clinic in Belfast on Thursday 18th October — the clinic will offer abortions to women “within Northern Ireland’s current legal framework”.

A spokeswoman said: “Medical abortion up to nine weeks’ gestation will be available at the centre.

“Our provision of early medical abortion will be the same service that is currently available from the NHS in Northern Ireland, available only within the current legal framework: that is, if a woman’s life is at immediate risk or there is a risk of ‘real and serious’ long term or permanent damage to her physical or mental health, she may have an abortion in Northern Ireland.” — The Detail

Abortion is a particularly hot-topic in Ireland, both North and South of the border, however what the planned opening of the clinic has done is to make the debate more relevant and is playing a large part in educating people about the legal stance on abortion in Northern Ireland. It has come as a surprise to many that abortions are legal in through the NHS. While this service is only available under highly regulated circumstances where the life or mental and physical well-being of the pregnant woman was at immediate risk. It is clear that many eligible women in Northern Ireland are turned away from this service under the NHS as doctors often do not know the full extent of the law.

From the BBCNews website:

Q. What is the law on abortion in Northern Ireland?

The law in Northern Ireland is as it was in Britain before 1967. The 1861 Offences Against the Person Act makes all abortions illegal. The 1929 Infant Life (Preservation) Act was extended to Northern Ireland in 1945 and allows abortion to preserve a mother’s life. Also the Bourne judgement 1938 – case law allowing abortion in circumstances of risk to mental or physical health.

While the service is available under these circumstances through the NHS, programme director Dawn Pervis has said that the clinic offers “a safe place for women and men to find support, be provided with help and counselling, to feel that they are being listened to and not judged. It is a matter of choice, every step of the way. A woman may decide that she does not want to choose a termination. If she does, then offering early medical abortion cuts out the stress of having to travel outside Northern Ireland to access those services.”

The Marie Stopes website details the abortion pill procedure.

Women over 16 will be able to avail of the abortion service provided, however the clinic also provides a number of other serivces:

  • Abortion
  • Contraception
  • Female sterilisation
  • Well Woman screening
  • Cervical screening
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Chlamydia tests
  • Gynaecological checks
  • Menopause checks
  • For men

  • Vasectomy
  • Well Man screening
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • HIV testing
  • Chlamydia tests

In a statement released this morning, Alliance MLA, Anna Lo said:

“I would like to welcome the opening of the first Marie Stopes clinic in Northern Ireland. I will be giving them my full support and I would like to send my warmest wishes to Dawn Purvis the director of this clinic.

“They will be operating within the current law, so I am deeply saddened by the criticism that some people have directed towards this development.

This is a step forward in the right direction for Northern Ireland, especially considering that we are decades behind the rest of the UK on this issue. There is still more work to do to offer women full choice but this is a ground breaking day for women in Northern Ireland.

We should not be forcing women to travel to Britain to even have a termination that would be legal in Northern Ireland. We are putting extra pressure on women by forcing them to travel across the Irish Sea to have a termination.

I hope people can treat this issue with the sensitivity that it deserves and not use inflammatory language that puts stress on women who will have to make a difficult decision.”

It is this support and and counselling which is vital and this clinic makes it easier for women to seek the help they need. It is important to stir opinion and making women aware of what their options are. It is also worthwhile noting that 9 weeks actually looks like: an inch long, the head very big in proportion to the rest of it, eyes out to the side, brain cells still unconnected, some spontaneous movements purely due to reflexive activity, no conscious awareness.

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