POLICE are on standby ahead of this week’s opening of Belfast’s first abortion clinice.
PSNI chiefs are expecting noisy protests as scores of campaigners turn up to picket the Marie Stopes clinic in Great Victoria Street.
The clinic opens its doors on Thursday and has already made national headlines. Churches and pro-life groups are deeply opposed to the clinic,
The Marie Stopes Clinic is due to open in Belfast on 18 October. Former Progessive Unionist Party leader Dawn Purvis is the centre’s programme director
Yesterday, DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots said he expected the clinic to be monitored in some way.
He told the BBC that he was seeking clarification on whether the Regulation Quality and Improvement Authority, which already regulates a number of health bodies in Northern Ireland, can take on the role.
“I think it has to be regulated, but it will be regulated one way or the other, either through the police or ourselves, it will be regulated,” Mr Poots said.
“But the Department of Health would rather be the organisation, through the RQIA, that’s doing the regulation.
“We will confirm very soon whether that is going to be the case immediately or whether it’s going to take a little longer to put procedures in place.
Pro choice campaigners are also expected to be out in force to show their support for the Marie Stopes clinic.
Their slogan – KEEP YOUR ROSARIES OFF OVARIES – has become the international war cry for groups who believe women should have the choice to have an abortion or not.
Tracey McNeill, vice president and director of Marie Stopes UK and Europe, said she would be delighted to talk to Mr Poots about how abortions can be regulated.
“Personally I’ve worked in healthcare for over 30 years,” she said.
“I’ve worked for the Department of Health in the UK, I’ve helped draft standards and regulation, I’ve been a regulator.
“I would never, ever put teams of healthcare professionals or staff into a situation where they were doing something unlawful.”
Marie Stopes has said it will provide terminations within Northern Ireland’s current legal framework – abortions are not illegal but are very strictly controlled.
Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the UK, is not covered by an abortion act.
Abortions can be carried out only to preserve the life of the mother, or if continuing the pregnancy would have other serious, permanent physical or mental health effects.
There is strict assessment regarding any impact on mental well-being and the woman must consult with two clinicians.
The Marie Stopes clinic has said it will carry out medical, not surgical, procedures only up to nine weeks’ gestation and only within the existing legal framework.
It said that the health professionals in the clinic will be from Northern Ireland and that they will make the assessments, although the views of the woman’s own GP will be taken into consideration.
The clinic’s services will also be available to women from the Republic of Ireland, if they meet the legal criteria in Northern Ireland.
Last year, over 1,000 women from Northern Ireland travelled to Wales or England to have abortions.
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