Belfast Telegraph

Edwin Poots considering move that could hit Belfast abortion clinic

By Noel McAdam

Edwin Poots said he is considering measures which could see Northern Ireland's first private abortion clinic put out of business.

The health minister told the Assembly that he is looking at the possibility of only allowing legal pregnancy terminations on NHS facilities in Northern Ireland.

If such a move was approved it would make abortions at the private Marie Stopes clinic illegal.

The clinic opened last month amid protests from pro-life campaigners.

The subject was raised at Stormont on Monday when Mr Poots answered questions about the Marie Stopes clinic and the lack of guidance for healthcare professionals carrying out abortions in Northern Ireland.

At Question Time Traditional Unionist MLA Jim Allister asked the minister whether “to bring certainty and quell the controversy that has arisen from the opening of the Marie Stopes abortion clinic, an option he might consider would be to provide that such termination of pregnancy as may be lawful in certain circumstances could only lawfully be carried out in a National Health Service facility?”

Mr Poots replied: “We are considering all options and are seeking legal advice on all of them with respect to what can be applied in Northern Ireland. The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) is continuing with its course of work.

“There is different governance for Northern Ireland than for the rest of the UK in that respect. It may be something that can be done simply by giving the RQIA all the responsibility for monitoring all bodies.

“Alternatively, it may be that we only permit abortions to be carried out in a health service facility. All those things are open for discussion. All those things are currently being looked at.”

UUP MLA Sandra Overend asked if Mr Poots would follow the probe of the death in Galway of Savita Halappanavar “so that any lessons relevant to Northern Ireland could be quickly applied”.

Mr Poots responded: “I am very clear that we set the rules here on abortion. It is not something that has been kept at Westminster, and I am glad that it is not with Westminster. A previous Secretary of State indicated that it was their deepest regret that they had not introduced abortion to Northern Ireland.”

It is understood Mr Poots was referring to Mo Mowlam.

Belfast Telegraph


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