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Monday 24th October 2016

Call for inquiry into NI abortion clinic

19th October 2012

Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin wants to see a top-level investigation into the opening of the first private clinic to offer abortions in Belfast.

The Marie Stopes clinic has stressed it will provide terminations within Northern Ireland’s legal framework, where regulations on abortion differ from other parts of the UK and are not covered by an Abortion Act.

However, the opening of the clinic has sparked protests by people from a variety of religious denominations, although the group Abortion Rights has welcomed the opening.

Mr Larkin has written to the Stormont Justice Committee inviting them to investigate the operations of the Belfast clinic, though he has acknowledged that in his official capacity he cannot intervene.

But he said he would be happy to give assistance, including acting as counsel and questioning witnesses on their behalf.

In Northern Ireland, abortions can be carried out only to preserve the life of the mother or if continuing the pregnancy would have other serious, permanent physical or mental health effects.

The Marie Stopes clinic will carry out medical, not surgical, procedures only up to nine weeks gestation and only within the existing legal framework.

However, women from Northern Ireland can travel to the rest of the UK for an abortion as a 24-week limit applies in England, Wales and Scotland. The permission of two doctors - or one in an emergency - is also needed. After 24 weeks, abortions are only allowed in Britain in extreme circumstances such as if there is a risk to the life of the woman.


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