- (Photo: Pro-Life Action League's Photos Facebook)
Residents and religious leaders in northern Ireland are outraged that the first private abortion clinic is set to open this week, even though Northern Ireland has strict laws regulating abortion.
The new clinic, which is operated by Marie Stopes International, claims that they will operate within the strict legal framework, but many critics say that the clinic has no need to operate in the northern part of the country.
Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland, except for cases which would endanger the life of the mother or result in serious physical or mental health problems for the child. Critics argue that there is no need for a private clinic, and suggest that a pregnant woman in need of a procedure could visit one of the state run health facilities.
"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?" Jim Allister, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party, told BBC.
Even leading politicians, including Health Minister Edwin Poots, are questioning the reasoning behind the new clinic. Question remains as to how the clinic will be monitored to ensure that they are following every regulation and law.
The new clinic has also been the target of pro-life groups, who see no increasing demand for terminating pregnancies and are skeptical of the good that can come from it.
"An organization 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," Bernadette Smith of Precious Life told the Christian Institute.
"There is no demand for Marie Stopes in Northern Ireland. The figures for women seeking an abortion have been coming down," she added.