Mixed views on Northern Ireland private abortion clinic

Marie Stopes Belfast clinic

The first private clinic to offer an abortion service to women in Northern Ireland is due to open next week.

Unlike the rest of the UK, it's illegal to have an abortion in the province unless the mother is at risk.

Up until now that service was only provided by the NHS.

Now the first independent clinic, run by Marie Stopes, will open in Belfast city centre. It will operate under Northern Ireland's current laws, where abortions are strictly controlled.

Doctor Paula Franklin from Marie Stopes said: "We saw the need to open a clinic because we treat women from Northern Ireland in England.

"They have to make a difficult journey all the way to England."

Strict laws

In Northern Ireland abortions can only take place within nine weeks unlike the rest of the UK where it is 24 weeks.

Terminations are allowed only for medical reasons rather than being a lifestyle option.

Hannah Lynch
Hannah Lynch, 20, from County Tyrone disagrees with the clinic opening

Paula Franklin added: "A woman can only have an abortion (in Northern Ireland) if two doctors agree her health is at serious risk or the pregnancy poses a permanent risk to her physical or mental health."

Last year, it's thought around 1,000 women travelled to other parts of the UK to have an abortion.

Johnny Shanley made that journey with a friend. "I had to go because they weren't in a position to have a child," he said.

"It was unplanned and weren't in a stable relationship."

Although this new clinic will still have to operate under Northern Ireland law, Johnny thinks it is a positive step in the right direction.

"I think it will bring us into the modern age," he said.

But Hannah Lynch, 20, from County Tyrone disagrees.

She said: "I was annoyed when I saw it was coming here. People here have a different perspective.

"Most people here are brought up with a religious background, more so than the rest of the UK.

"So our law here just reflects that."

An anti-abortion group has called for it to be shut down.