An abortion clinic is set to open in Belfast next week. It will be the first of its kind in all of Ireland, but extreme anti-abortion groups could shut the service down before it has even opened its doors.
An "outraged" Bernadette Smyth, founder of the anti-abortion group Precious Life, vowed to pressure local politicians into refusing to grant the clinic an operating license. In a statement she said, "An organization which is making profits from the death of unborn children is not welcome in Northern Ireland."
Except, the organization in question, Marie Stopes International, is actually a nonprofit, so Smyth just comes off sounding ill-informed and fanatical. It's that same lack of logic and stubborn refusal to bend that has put many women in harm's way. Even though the Irish Supreme Court legalized abortion in cases where the mother's life is threatened way back in 1992, 20 years later the Irish Republic has failed to put the law into effect, which earned the country the ire of the European Court of Human Rights last year. Having a clinic in Belfast—just a two hour train ride from Dublin—would make safe abortion services much more accessible to these women, who otherwise would have to travel "across the water" to England at a large expense to them.
However, in Northern Ireland, abortions are still very restricted to cases in which a pregnancy would have serious physical or mental health effects on the patient. In following these restrictions, the Belfast clinic would limit abortions to the first nine weeks of pregnancy (as opposed to the first 24 weeks in the rest of the UK). Additionally, pregnancies would only be terminated by abortion pills and not by surgery.
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