The Stormont Justice Committee has invited representatives fromMarie Stopes in Belfast to explain how they will carry out abortionsin their clinic in compliance with Northern Ireland law. The clinic opened its door for the first time on Thursday with 400 protesters lining the street outside.
Paul Givan, the chair of the committee, from the Democratic Unionist Party, said, “It is appropriate for this Committee to assure itself, and the public, that this private clinicwill scrupulously follow the law.”
The Committee’s move to investigate follows a call from the Attorney General to examine the practices used. John Larkin QC made the request. He stated that he would stand as a guardian of the rule of law.
The Marie Stopes Clinicwill provide the women of Ireland with ultrasound scans, smear tests, STI and HIV testing, and contraceptive options. Abortions can also be paid for at the clinic as long as the laws surrounding the procedure are met. The mother’s life or mental health must be deemed to be at serious risk, by two doctors, before the abortion is carried out.
Tracey McNeill, vice-president and director ofMarie Stopes UK and Europe, said they would not be breaking the law. She said “We are clear about the law here. The team here are all from Northern Ireland - we understand the culture here. We don't want to change the culture here and have abortion on demand. This is about offering choice.”
At the Belfast clinic only medical terminations will be carried out and only up to nine weeks gestation. The clinic will also provide counseling. A consultation costs $128 and the procedure costs $560.
Already the clinic has been “inundated” with queries from members of the public who wish to use their services, according to a spokesperson.
Ulster’s ITV news estimated that there were 400 protesters and defenders of the clinic outside the Marie Stopes clinic on Thursday, when it opened for the first time.
Bernadette Smyth, from the Precious Life Group, was among the protesters who prayed and sang hymns outside. She said her group wants to see an end to terminations, which she describes as “violent and graphic”.
She added, "There's no will here from the people of Northern Ireland to introduce any of or abortionhere," she added.
"Abortionhas lost all meaning in some areas, for example in the UK, it becomes the norm. In Northern Ireland it's not the norm."
Elsewhere in the country there were other forms of protest. In Derry, school principal Deirdre Gillespie and her pupils got involved through prayer. Sixth form pupils at the school gave up their lunch break to pray for the clinic’s closure.
Gillespie said, “Our pupils felt that they had to stand up and let their voice be heard about this situation. They felt that the innocent voice of the child was not being heard…A number of younger children in the school - year 11 and year 12 - now also want to get involved, so much so that the rota that the put in place for this lunchtime rosary and novena is oversubscribed hugely."
Here’s the ITV report on the Clinic’s launch today: