An Idaho-based anti-abortion group is taking their questionable talents to Northern Ireland. On Tuesday, the group, Stanton Healthcare, opened a “pregnancy care clinic” just down the street from Marie Stopes, the only private abortion clinic in the region.
Legal abortions are extremely difficult to obtain in Northern Ireland; they are only permitted in the case of life endangerment, and not in the cases of rape, incest, or fetal abnormality. Women can be sentenced to life in prison for obtaining illegal abortions, as can anyone caught helping them to obtain one. At their Belfast clinic, Marie Stopes can only offer medical abortions at up to nine weeks gestation, and are frequently mobbed with particularly vicious protesters.
Amnesty International calls Northern Ireland’s abortion laws out of line with international human rights standards. Thousands of people travel each year to the UK to obtain abortion care. Just 23 abortions were conducted in NHS hospitals in Northern Ireland last year.
All of which presumably sounds wonderful to Stanton Healthcare, which refers to itself as a “life-affirming medical clinic” that until now has only operated in Boise. The list of services they provide don’t in any way constitute actual medical care, although they do offer something called a “sexual integrity program,” and say they can provide a referral for OB-GYN services.
This week, Stanton opened a branch in Belfast, just down the street from Marie Stopes, with the ultimate goal of “replacing” the real clinic, as they told the Telegraph. Leading the charge is Bernadette Smyth, an anti-abortion campaigner in Northern Ireland who leads a group called Precious Life. She’s protested Marie Stopes Belfast since the day it opened, and was convicted last November of harassing its director, Dawn Purvis. (Correction: Smyth’s conviction was overturned on appeal this June.) In a press release, Smyth promised to bring “life-affirming medical resources” to Belfast.
Smyth was also joined, for some reason, by New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith. Smith’s jurisdiction doesn’t extend to either Idaho or Nothern Ireland. But he’s referred to abortion as “lethal violence against children and the exploitation of women,” and spends much of his time trying to ban funding for it in the United States or in aid programs administered overseas.
Stanton will be holding a fundraising banquet in Belfast on Friday for the new clinic. The tagline is, “All they need is love.”
Protesters outside Marie Stopes. Screengrab via YouTube/AP Archive