UK & World News
Abortion: Call To Shut Down Belfast Private Clinic
The first ever private abortion clinic will open in Northern Ireland next week.
Based in Belfast, the opening of the Marie Stopes centre is causing huge controversy because the law for abortions in Northern Ireland is different to the rest of the UK.
A woman can only have an abortion in Northern Ireland if the pregnancy is putting her health at risk, or if there is a threat to her physical or mental wellbeing.
The new programme director of the Marie Stopes Centre, Dawn Purvis, said it will operate within the nation's law.
She said: "We are providing a private health care service with a clear access route within the law as it exists for women who meet the criteria in Northern Ireland.
"If women come to us and they have a consultation with our doctors and they don't fit with either the legal or medical criteria that exists here, then we can refer them on to one of our centres in England."
A total of 202,518 women had legal abortions in the UK last year. Some 116 were carried out in Northern Ireland.
But Department of Health figures show that 1,007 women travelled from Northern Ireland to England and Wales to have a termination.
And fewer than ten travelled to Scotland.
Mandy, who does not want her real identity to be known, made the journey to England when she fell pregnant.
She said her doctor at home did not offer her any advice.
The Marie Stopes centre said it will offer contraceptive advice, HIV testing and in certain circumstances a termination at up to nine weeks of pregnancy - all within Northern Irish law.
Anti-abortion and pro-life groups are outraged by the centre, vowing to fight its opening.
Bernadette Smyth from Precious Life said: "I am seeking legal advice today because I am greatly concerned that illegal abortions will be performed in Northern Ireland in this illegal abortion clinic. The law in Northern Ireland clearly protects unborn children."
Abortion has always been an emotive issue in Northern Ireland, with the churches and most of the political parties opposing it.
Feelings are unlikely to ease when the first private clinic opens.