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Clinic in North offers abortions for less than €600

WOMEN here will be able to get abortions in the North for less than €600 -- including the return train fare --when the first abortion clinic in the country opens in Belfast next week.

Women over 16 from anywhere in Ireland will be able to make appointments at the Marie Stopes Northern Ireland sexual and reproductive health centre on Great Victoria Street if they are less than nine weeks' pregnant.

Last year an average of 11 women a day travelled from the Republic to Britain for abortions. The new clinic is operating under existing laws in the North where women can seek abortions if their lives are at immediate risk or if there is a long-term, serious or permanent risk to the woman's physical or mental wellbeing.

It is likely, however, to draw a storm of protests from anti-abortion groups south of the border and pro-life campaigners have already predicted widespread opposition to the clinic.

Offers

Marie Stopes International is a not-for-profit organisation that offers abortions, contraception, HIV testing, ultrasound scans and sexually transmitted infection treatments. It has been established for more than 30 years.

At the Belfast centre, two doctors will assess whether a woman is eligible for a termination following a consultation with her and a scan to confirm the existence of the pregnancy, including the length of gestation and any complications.

The charge for an early medication abortion, which is a non surgical procedure will be €535, which includes the cost of the initial consultation.

A return train fare from Dublin to Belfast costs an average of €40.

Programme director Dawn Purvis said: "We offer 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."

She added that the new clinic would be operating within the current legal framework.

Aftercare such as counselling and access to a 24-hour helpline will also be provided.


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