Belfast Telegraph

Abortion clinic may exploit and break the law, claims opponent

By Lisa Smyth

A charity offering abortions to women in Northern Ireland may break the law, a pro-life group has claimed.

Liam Gibson from the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC) also said any woman who has an illegal abortion at the new Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast will be guilty of a criminal offence.

Marie Stopes has consistently said it will abide by current legislation.

Mr Gibson, who advises the all-party pro-life group at Stormont, said he believes there are very few occasions when the strict criteria for an abortion in Northern Ireland will be met, allowing a woman to undergo a termination at the health facility which opens tomorrow.

The Stormont group is made up of male MLAs from all the main parties — bar Sinn Fein — and met yesterday to discuss the clinic along with adviser Bernie Smyth (right) of the Precious Life group.

Mr Gibson said he believes Marie Stopes is trying to exploit and widen access to abortion on the grounds of mental health.

He said this is one of the most serious aspects of the abortion debate.

“Marie Stopes only has one objective and that is to bring abortion on demand to Northern Ireland. If this clinic opens it will only be a matter of time before our law is completely overthrown.

“I think if they are going to provide a service they may break the law in Northern Ireland.

“They are advertising for women to come from the Republic,” he said.

“In Northern Ireland, abortions are unlawful if they do not happen to save the life of the mother or prevent grave, permanent damage to the health of the mother and that includes mental health.”

He said there were very few situations that met the demands of the legislation.

“In modern medicine there are very few cases where an abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother and certainly most interventions would be done at a later stage.

“They are not done as medical abortions like the ones being offered by Marie Stopes. That is because most of the time the problems are not apparent at such an early stage of the pregnancy, such as eclampsia.

“This is a condition which would be dealt with surgically as opposed to using medication so there are going to be very, very few women who would be in the position that they require a termination and actually qualify under the law,” he added.

Mr Gibson also said the clinic would be closely monitored.

“In Northern Ireland, the health minister has made it clear that they will be expected to adhere to the law strictly.

“If a woman turns up demanding an abortion and they fail to meet the clinical assessment, including a psychological assessment, then they have to be told they cannot have an abortion.”

“Abortion in Northern Ireland is not a service, it is a criminal offence.

“I accept the clinic will open on Thursday, but I am confident any protest will be peaceful,” Mr Gibson added.

“I can’t imagine there will be any disturbance.”

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