Abortion law 'cannot be avoided'
The controversial opening of Northern Ireland's first abortion clinic could put legislating for terminations back on the Irish agenda, it has been claimed.
Labour MEP Nessa Childers said opponents to the Marie Stopes centre were guilty of scaremongering by claiming the facility could have a knock-on effect across the rest of the island.
She said it was unlikely the opening would lead to the launch of more clinics in Northern Ireland and, eventually, the Republic.
"There seems to be fear that it will open up abortion in the Republic, but if you were a person who was worried about that happening, I think that is scaremongering," said Ms Childers.
The Ireland East MEP said the most important issue for Ireland surrounding abortion was legislating for the so-called X case. This could see the Government officially write into law the right for a woman to have an abortion in the event her life was in danger.
"This is an issue that's very important for the Labour Party and my own personal view on the way in which we deal with the subject," she added. "It is not something we can continue to avoid."
Ms Childers worked as a psychotherapist and claimed to have witnessed some tragic cases over the years. She welcomed Health Minister Dr James Reilly's apparent commitment to abortion reforms. Dr Reilly is expected to address the legislation at the end of the month after he receives recommendations from an expert group on a recent European court ruling.
"I saw a number of very serious and heart-rending situations where people had been to the UK for terminations and were over there on their own," Ms Childers added. "It makes me angry that we all run screaming from it."
The Marie Stopes clinic opens in Belfast on Thursday - as a private reproductive health centre. Despite heavy protests from pro-life campaigners, the clinic will - for the first time ever on the island of Ireland - provide abortions to women who are up to nine weeks pregnant.
The Labour Party has made repeated calls for abortion reforms since entering the coalition with Fine Gael.