Call for abortion clinic inquiry as Marie Stopes opens new centre in Belfast


Northern Ireland's Attorney General has called for an investigation into the opening of the country's first private abortion clinic.

John Larkin, who is the chief legal adviser to the Stormont Executive, has written to the justice committee asking it look into the practices of the new facility which officially opens today.

The request comes as up to 150 anti-abortion activists gathered to protest outside the Marie Stopes centre on Belfast's Great Victoria Street.

The new facility will offer terminations up to nine weeks' gestation, each costing £450.

Bernadette Smyth, from the Precious Life lobby group which organised the rally, said: "There is no will for Marie Stopes to be here, they are not welcome here. The people here want to make a stand. Unborn children here are precious and there is no will for abortion to be legalised here from the people or politicians. It's clear that unborn children are protected here.

"We are still seeking legal advice. I would not rule out an injunction. I am still working with the justice system and our politicians to ensure that Marie Stopes does not take the lives of any unborn children."

Protesters carrying placards, some showing graphic images of foetuses, have sung hymns and prayed throughout the morning.

Daire Fitzgerald, 51, travelled from Dublin to take part. He said: "I was shocked to hear that Marie Stopes is opening in Ireland. There is no need. It is just horrible that they have moved here - people on both sides of the border do not want this."

In Northern Ireland abortion is not illegal but is strictly controlled. The procedure is only permitted if the life or mental health of the mother is at serious risk.

A spokesman for the Attorney General's office confirmed that a letter had been sent to the Stormont justice committee's DUP chairman, Paul Givan.

In it, Mr Larkin said he was not allowed to intervene in an official capacity but could offer advice, act as counsel and interview witnesses in a non-statutory role as guardian of the rule of law.

Meanwhile, Marie Stopes has insisted its new centre, which is headed by former Progressive Unionist Party MLA Dawn Purvis, will operate within the current legal framework, providing medical not surgical terminations up to nine weeks' gestation with aftercare including counselling.

Tracey McNeill, vice president and director of Marie Stopes UK and Europe, said the organisation would not break the law.

She said: "We knew that this was never going to be easy. The reason we are here is that we know there is a need for a service like ours.

"What we are providing is family planning, contraception and counselling. The majority of women that come to us we won't be able to treat because of the legal framework and we are really clear about that. But, if we can provide them with a space in which they can make their own decisions and choices, then the team will have done a good job.

"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."


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine