50 women have their say on abortion clinic

It’s an issue that’s overwhelmingly decided by male politicians, but what do women think? We asked 50 females ‘what is your view on the setting up of the Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast?’ These are their answers...

Diane Dodds, DUP MEP: “As a party we make no apology for wishing to see as few abortions as possible take place in Northern Ireland and we do not support any change to current laws. It is vital to remember that behind statistics and arguments lie the lives of people and unborn children, and that we approach this issue with sensitivity and compassion. I cannot consider abortion simply to be just another medical procedure.”

Arlene Foster, DUP Minister: A DUP spokesman said Diane Dodds’ statement on the Marie Stopes clinic was representative of all female members, including Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.

Goretti Horgan, University of Ulster lecturer: “It has already moved things forward. It is 20 years since the Standing Advisory Body said guidelines were needed here. Now it looks like we are going to get them. It has made women realise they have a right to abortion on medical grounds.”

Brenda Stevenson, SDLP councillor on Derry City Council: “I don't agree with this clinic. I am personally against abortion in any way, shape or form. I worry that there is no regulation and this clinic may not stick to guidelines.”

Sandra Overend, UUP MLA: “As far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out on the clinic. I can understand why a lot of people in Northern Ireland have concerns in that abortion might become more commonplace and I share those concerns. But at the same time people need as much help and guidance as they can get and I welcome that help and assistance. Does setting up this clinic mean we’re lacking something on the NHS?”

Sinead Evans, Facebook: “If you don't like abortion, don’t get one. Stop trying to push your beliefs on women who do decide on abortions, for health reasons or can't afford to have children.”

Kathleen Bradley, advice worker at Dove House Centre, Londonderry: “I am for this clinic. I am for choice in every aspect of life. We need to be able to make our own decisions. This clinic, if run correctly and regulated, will be a step forward for Northern Ireland.”

Felicity McCall, author: “On a personal level I am against abortion in any circumstances but I accept there will be women who feel they are going to do it. I would like to know how it is going to be controlled and that there would be adequate screening.”

Victoria Leonard, Facebook: “People have the right to disagree, but in a democratic society they must also respect other people's freedom to choose. We fought two World Wars and are currently fighting another one to safeguard our own and others' freedom to choose how to live their lives. Let's not regress.”

Jeanette Warke, youth worker: “My feeling is that everyone has their own choice to make and who are we to judge anyone? We don't know the circumstances a woman may find herself in but if her life is in danger then I agree with it.”

Mairear People, businesswoman: “I am for life from conception to natural death. The news that this clinic is to open in our country was the worst thing I have heard. I feel sorry for Dawn Purvis that she will be known as the person who brought this into our country.”

Ciara Boyes, Facebook: “There is very strict regulations on these clinics. Marie Stopes is a very responsible private clinic.”

Pamela Ballantine, broadcaster: “I don’t have any problems with it. The clinic is being promoted as an abortion clinic. It’s not. It is a well woman clinic and offers women the chance to see someone privately; they’re not breaking the law.”

Catherine McCarthy, pharmacist: “I am in favour of the centre because women should have the option to have medical and sexual advice in a neutral setting without having to travel to another country. It is not an easy decision to make to have a termination. No woman makes it lightly.”

Eithne Morgan, physiotherapist: “I’m in favour because it is giving women more choice, and they don’t have to travel. That affects poor people more as they perhaps don’t have the money. I think the operation of the clinic should go even further and be the same as it is in the rest of the UK — we are a bit backward here.”

Anne Rae, Facebook: “I wish that people could see the benefits of this. The women who have already made up their minds are on the ferry, but this is a service that will help desperate women come to a decision and give them options.”

Dr Josephine Deehan, SDLP spokeswoman on primary healthcare: “I am opposed to the setting up of any abortion clinic. There's a need to provide support to women for unplanned pregnancy. Speaking as a doctor there are other options that need to be explained to women dealing with unplanned pregnancy. The response of a lot of women is to panic and think abortion is their only option as they want to be immediately rid of their problem. However, if they are given time to calm down and consider other options, women can often change their mind. Abortion is not a natural process. I have seen women who have had abortions suffer various problems as a result. In my religion we believe life begins at conception.”

Bernie Kelly, SDLP spokeswoman on women’s issues: “I am opposed to any extension of the Abortion Act or opening of a clinic which offers abortions. I recognise the clinic will also be offering services such as family planning sexual health advice which is one positive aspect I suppose but I am completely opposed to the fact it will also be offering abortions. The Department of Health needs to promote better healthcare and provide counselling to women to prevent crisis pregnancies.”

Frances Burscough, Telegraph columnist: “I think the new Marie Stopes clinic should be allowed to open in Belfast as freely as anywhere else in the UK. I personally would consider something like that a vital part of the health service. I personally would only use the abortion service as a last resort and feel it shouldn’t be used as another form of birth control. The fact that they’re offering family planning services too is a good thing. It’s about time we came up to date and reached the standards of the rest of the developed world.”

Naomi Long, East Belfast MP for Alliance: “The abortion issue in Alliance is one of individual conscience and I personally am not in favour of abortion on demand, nor a relaxing of the current abortion law. The clinic will operate within the current legal boundaries in Northern Ireland. However, the issue of whether abortion will become more freely available here as a result will need to be closely monitored. People need to bear in mind that due to the current legal status here, where doctors say abortion is needed, then that is appropriate. I have no objection to the clinic operating within the current Northern Ireland law.”

Dr Ann McCloskey, Derry GP: “We neither want nor need Marie Stopes here. Where it is legal for a woman to have an abortion the NHS already provides it free of charge. For Dawn Purvis to say it is a not for profit organisation is laughable. I’d like to know what wage she takes home.”

Sarah White, Facebook: “Can't imagine how someone who wants to use the clinic’s services is feeling with the amount of judging mini-Hitlers who will no doubt be lurking about, so it's nice to see such a positive and supportive reaction.”

Jo-Anne Dobson, UUP MLA: “I am deeply concerned that the Marie Stopes clinic is opening this week and we have no regulation in place. We appear to be operating under antiquated laws in Northern Ireland and this needs to be addressed. Personally, I don’t agree with this clinic opening. I don’t think we should be getting into the realm of which babies are born in Northern Ireland and which aren’t. I am against abortion.”

Rachel Nightingale, Facebook: “What’s worse — to ruin two lives, or to cease one from developing so that it doesn't have to experience a poor quality of life? Who am I to make this decision or you for that matter?”

Anna Lo, Alliance MLA: “Ultimately women need to have a choice when the are faced with unplanned pregnancy. The rest of the UK has had the choice since 1967, we are denying women the same service in Northern Ireland. We are treating them like second class citizens here.”

Claire Bailey, Green Party: “The Green Party believes abortion is a freedom of conscience decision. We are all free to hold our own views on it within the party. I personally support a woman's right to choose and the opening of the Marie Stopes clinic. The clinic will open within the legal limits set out by our own law here in Northern Ireland so I don't see why people are making such a big issue about it. I wish the clinic well.”

Stephanie Pollock, Facebook: “The women of Ireland will have a choice and finally they are being given one instead of being dictated to by the men.”

Sue Ramsey, Sinn Fein Chair of Stormont Health Committee: “Sinn Fein is not in favour of abortion nor do we believe that the 1967 British Abortion Act should be extended to the six counties. We believe where a woman's life or mental health is at risk or in grave danger that the final decision rests with the woman. The Marie Stopes Clinic is a private institution offering a range of services, the majority of which are not contentious. It is important it operates within the law.”

Dr Audrey Simpson, Director, Family Planning Association: “I ask the question what we should do with all the women who do not want to continue with their pregnancy and I never get an answer. Are we supposed to lock them in a room and force them to have the baby? Marie Stopes is providing an essential service and at the very least the opening of the clinic has started a debate on this issue. Stopping women from having an abortion in Northern Ireland doesn’t stop abortions from happening.”

Carmel Hanna, SDLP Member and former nurse: “As a matter of public policy I am personally opposed to abortion but there must be the maximum amount of compassion shown and practical help given to women in a crisis pregnancy. Ultimately a change in the law must be a matter for the people of Northern Ireland and implemented in the Assembly. The Health Minister is obliged to produce guidelines clarifying the law on abortion, I don't understand the delay. I am against abortion from a human rights view — the one I take on euthanasia and capital punishment.”

Bernie Smyth, Precious Life founder: “I don't agree with the Marie Stopes clinic. There is no will from the people in Northern Ireland, there is no will from the politicians and there is no will from the churches. Abortion doesn't help a woman in a crisis pregnancy, it destroys the unborn child and the woman. We want to eliminate the crisis, not take a life in the process.”

Lynda Bryans, wife of UUP leader Mike Nesbitt: “I am broadly in favour as I’m certainly in favour of women having as much informed choice as possible. I’ve known people who have needed those services because of violent rape. It is a very sensitive issue but I feel this life-changing decision, for her and the life she’s carrying, should be up to the woman involved. I wish Dawn Purvis well.”

Grainne Maher, fashion designer: “I am very pro-choice and pro the clinic. I think it’s long overdue as these services are commonplace in the developed world and other European countries. We’re in a bit of a backwater in Northern Ireland. The trauma for women having to physically travel to England or wherever, and the costs involved in a termination, is terrible. So I am 100% for the clinic. I did not expect it to open quietly and fully expected the hoo ha. I hope things will calm down. Anyhow, the debate is healthy.”

Claire Allen, Derry novelist: “I have very mixed views on the clinic. I think women need more choice and the law in Northern Ireland is archaic. I do have a reservation and hope this won’t open the doors to abortion on demand, as a form of birth control.”

Brenda Shankey, businesswoman: “I would be for the clinic opening in current circumstances. It’s a woman’s right to choose and in my opinion if somebody is raped or suffers from an accident or illness, it’s justified. Or if a woman wouldn’t be able to bring up a child or provide for it. To me, a woman should have the right to terminate unwanted pregnancies.”

Fiona Cassidy, novelist: “I think there are enough clinics and doctors’ surgeries in various places so there’s no need for another. I am so, so anti-abortion. As a mother I think it’s wrong. A while ago, I suffered a miscarriage and know how painful that was. I’d seen the heartbeat at seven weeks and knew it was a wee human being, then lost it at 13 weeks. For somebody to deliberately kill their child, I just couldn’t understand it. And I am adopted, so I know in whatever difficult circumstances a woman finds herself, there is another way.”

Naomi English, young women’s officer with Youth Action NI: “At YouthAction NI we champion the rights of all young women up to the age of 25 years, regardless of who they are or the choices they make. Our Gender Equality programmes strive to raise young women’s expectations of what the world has to offer them and generate the skills to achieve these. The new Marie Stopes clinic is a one-stop shop for sexual and reproductive health and should provide a valuable support service to the many young women across Northern Ireland who require information and support.”

Katrina Doran, founder of Sugahfix.com: “I am absolutely for the clinic. I think it’s up to the woman to decide what she wants to do, and the Marie Stopes clinic is more to do with information and advice than anything else. I feel like this because I had a close friend at university who had an abortion and I went through this traumatic experience with her. There was no help or advice. Who knows what her decision would’ve been if she’d had help here?”

Alison Lowry, artist: “I’m pro-choice but I don’t absolutely understand the legal point of view. If abortion is illegal here, how can this clinic work? But I am absolutely cool about the Marie Stopes clinic opening. It puts me to the wall hearing male politicians going on about it. It’s none of their business, if you can’t have children, wrap it.”

Emma Heatherington, Tyrone novelist: “I have mixed feelings about the clinic opening. Sadly, the statistics have spoken. Women from Northern Ireland have been travelling to England for years to have this procedure and while the whole subject is a very painful, sensitive one for many people, there can no longer be a ‘sweep it under the carpet and pretend it’s not happening’ view this side of the water.

Michelle McTernan, PR manager: “I totally disagree with the opening of the clinic. We have been trying for a baby for years, yet some take it for granted they can get pregnant, and if it doesn’t suit, have an abortion. Yet it isn’t the baby’s fault.”

Emma Campbell, PhD student and member of Alliance For Choice: “I feel very strongly about this and am for the opening of the Marie Stopes clinic. I think there is a great deal of secrecy and shame put onto women which is completely unnecessary. Compared to the rest of the world, the situation in Eire and in Northern Ireland is denying woman a reproductive choice, in other words a human right. If a woman is rich, she has options, if a woman is poor, she doesn’t.”

Helena McLean, teacher: “I am against the opening of this clinic, simply because of my experience of motherhood and the joy and fulfilment it’s given me. Also the drive to be a better person. Because of the age I am (38), I see many friends suffering with fertility problems and struggling to achieve something that came to me easily. If a woman is lucky to become pregnant, the baby’s a gift. It’s terrible for anybody to do this.”

Camile Andre, Facebook: “It's unfair and costly for us having to travel to do something of our own choice. Women here were being downgraded and thankfully someone stood up for women's choices.”

‘Julescat’, Comment on Belfast Telegraph website: “Welcome to Northern Ireland Marie Stopes. This is a nation that still attempts to tell its women what they can do. Thank god for ... Marie Stopes.”

Carrie Neely, art consultant: “Now I am pro-choice but I remember being on a TV programme Dilemma in my teens and expressing a different view, as I’d had a Catholic upbringing. Now my view is different as I’m more mature and have seen friends go through abortions which has made me pro-choice. I think it is very much up to the individual woman.”

Norma Bell, Facebook: “Abortion is a very sensitive issue for people that are for abortion and against. We need to respect both sides and not get into a slanging match about it. I am not for abortion nor am I against. I can't make my mind up about it. However, if I was raped and I fell pregnant, I might think about having this, I don't know.”

Rose Agnew, Belfast teacher: “The older I have got, the more I have wised up to real life. I would like to say no woman should ever have an abortion but it just doesn’t square with common sense. You simply cannot take a blanket approach to all women. Life is not straightforward and there must be choices. Marie Stopes is not just about abortion, it is an important support service for women.”

‘Lesley Pro Choice’, Comment on Belfast Telegraph website: “It is great that the opportunities for those who are pro-choice have been expanded, but there still needs to be a proper look at abortion law in Northern Ireland. Abortion is not an easy decision, I know, but at least some others will not have to do which I did 26 years ago and be forced to go to London. I was lucky, my mum knew and supported my decision and came with me. It is not a decision I have regretted.”

Eimar McVeigh, Facebook: “No-one seems to realise it is a women's health clinic offering numerous birth control methods to women here in Northern Ireland. A service which would work towards reducing unwanted/unplanned pregnancy hence reducing abortion rates.”

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