The opening of an abortion clinic in Northern Ireland has drawn protests from pro-life leaders and other individuals who say the clinic’s killing of unborn children is wrong and against the law.
“Abortionists in Britain may be used to flouting the law by performing sex-selection abortions on baby girls and falsifying paperwork, but the pro-life people and politicians in Northern Ireland expect officials to ensure that the laws here protecting the right to life of unborn children will be enforced,” said Liam Gibson, province development officer for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.
The British organization Marie Stopes International opened an abortion clinic Oct. 18 to protests from Catholics and Protestants alike. About 400 protesters lined the sidewalk, singing hymns and praying. Some showed pictures of aborted unborn babies.
The Belfast clinic charges the British equivalent of about $128 for a consulting fee and $562 for the abortion, according to figures on the Marie Stopes website.
The clinic directors said they will obey Northern Ireland Law, which allows abortion only when the mother’s life or long-term health is endangered. The directors said they will only perform abortions when the pregnant woman is less than nine weeks pregnant.
However, doctors and counselors at the clinic said they have received calls from women, including those from the Republic of Ireland, seeking abortions. The organization performs abortions later into pregnancy in the U.K. and refers some Northern Ireland clients there.
Some clinic protesters said they were certain public pressure would force the clinic to close. Northern Ireland politicians said they will investigate how the clinic operates.
“Our unborn children must be protected from hands of Marie Stopes International, who make millions of pounds every year by killing unborn children,” Bernadette Smyth, director of the pro-life group Precious Life, said Oct. 10.
She said her organization is contacting the police and other authorities to ensure the law is “vigorously enforced.” She contended that the clinic shows the “desperation of the pro-abortion movement,” which she accused of attempting to bypass the government and legal system to perform abortions.
“Any attempt to start killing unborn children in Northern Ireland will fail,” Smyth said. “Anyone who kills an unborn child in Northern Ireland is committing an illegal criminal act. We remain confident that anyone who tries to perform abortions in Northern Ireland will be brought to justice.”
Gibson from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Life also questioned the legality of the clinic.
“The law here is clear. The Northern Ireland Assembly has jurisdiction over abortion, not Marie Stopes. And the people of Northern Ireland are not prepared to let the abortion industry change our law by breaking it,” he said Oct. 11. “Abortion is not health care, it is a criminal offense.”
Bishop Noel Treanor of the Diocese of Down and Connor voiced his “great concern and dismay” about the clinic’s opening in an Oct. 10 statement on his diocese’s website.
“The opening of this facility further undermines the sanctity and dignity of human life in our society where the most vulnerable and defenseless human beings are already under threat,” he said.
Between 30 and 40 abortions are performed in Northern Ireland each year by the National Health Care Service, the U.K.’s publicly funded health care system.
Each year an estimated 1,000 women from Northern Ireland and 4,000 women from the Republic of Ireland travel to Britain for abortions, where the law is more permissive.
Bishop Treanor urged a “life-affirming and positive” response to women considering abortion.