Private abortion clinic to open its doors in Belfast next week
THE first private health centre offering abortion services is to open on the island of Ireland next week.
Marie Stopes Northern Ireland will offer medical abortions in Belfast city centre.
The not-for-profit organisation last night refused to disclose the clinic's exact location, citing security concerns for staff and patients.
The organisation confirmed it was the same abortion service that was available through the National Health Service in Northern Ireland, which is offered when the life of the pregnant woman is at immediate risk or there is a long-term risk to her physical or mental health.
The medical abortion will be offered up to nine weeks' gestation. It is also expected that people will travel from all over the island of Ireland for the service.
Pro-life campaigners have predicted widespread opposition to the plans.
Northern Ireland's Health Minister Edwin Poots questioned the legal position of the centre.
However, former Stormont Assembly member and the former leader of the Progressive Unionist Party Dawn Purvis said the centre was working to meet the needs of the people within "all relevant laws and guidelines".
Ms Purvis added that the centre would be able to meet the "family planning and sexual health needs" of people in a way that has not been seen before.
"A centre like ours has never existed before in Northern Ireland," said Ms Purvis, who will take the position of programme director at the new centre.
The latest figures show around 12 women a day in all types of circumstances travel from Ireland to the UK for terminations. Many women in Ireland opt not to carry babies with fatal conditions to full term and with abortion banned under Irish law, instead opt to travel to the UK for a medical termination.
Last year, 4,149 women from Ireland travelled to England or Wales for an abortion, as did 1,007 women from Northern Ireland. Earlier this year four women who travelled to Britain for medical terminations told their stories to TDs and helped spark a public debate on the issue of the strict legal ban on abortion.
In 1992, the Irish Supreme Court ruled abortion was legal where there was a real and substantial risk to a woman's life. However, in the 20-years since the X Case ruling, an abortion law has not been enacted.
The cost for an medical abortion will be £430 (€535) at the Belfast centre. This will include the consultation, scan to confirm pregnancy and the length of the term, counselling and assessment to see if the woman is eligible.