October 15, 2012 — Marie Stopes International said Thursday that it will open the first clinic to offer abortion care on the island of Ireland in Belfast next week, the New York Times reports. The clinic, which still needs approval from local regulators, would offer medication abortion up to nine weeks of pregnancy.
Abortion is permitted in Northern Ireland, where Belfast is located, only when continuing a pregnancy would cause serious permanent or long-term damage to the woman's physical or mental health. In the Republic of Ireland, abortion is permitted only when the life of the woman is threatened.
More than 4,000 women on the island travel to England each year to obtain abortion services, according to Dawn Purvis, program director of the new clinic. She said the clinic in Belfast will be more accessible and less expensive for Irish women than traveling to England. Currently, Marie Stopes provides Irish women with information about travel arrangements, costs and how to schedule appointments to obtain abortions in the U.K.
Abortion-rights opponents said they will pressure local authorities to deny the clinic a license (Dalby, New York Times, 10/11).