BELFAST, United Kingdom — The first abortion clinic in Northern Ireland will open next week amid fears it will attract protests along the lines of violent opposition to similar facilities in some US states.
The privately-run clinic in Belfast will be run by the Marie Stopes group, which said it would offer "a wide range of family planning and sexual health services under one roof".
It is extremely difficult to get an abortion in Northern Ireland, and pro-life groups and smaller political parties have already voiced opposition to the Marie Stopes clinic.
Jim Allister of the Traditional Unionist Voice party told BBC radio: "Where is the need for this clinic? There could not possibly be one.
"So there are ulterior motives and I suspect the ulterior motives might be to try and push the boundaries."
Just 35 pregnancies were terminated in Northern Ireland in the past year and it is estimated that about one thousand women from the province travel to England every year for abortions.
The clinic will not have a police guard because it is privately-run.
"They would have to provide their own security, but if there was an incident we would attend," said a spokesman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Marie Stopes said a security guard has been posted at the building, which the clinic shares with several other tenants.
A spokeswoman for the group said that before women enter the building to attend the clinic, they "will have to give certain details, booking numbers, so that we know it's them and not someone else".
Abortion laws which allow terminations up to 24 weeks in England, Wales and Scotland, the other three nations of the United Kingdom, do not cover Northern Ireland.
However, it is not illegal -- it is legal to terminate a pregnancy if the mother's life is in danger or there is a risk to her mental or physical wellbeing.
Marie Stopes said it will operate within the laws and guidelines.
There is little political will in Northern Ireland to legalise abortion. An attempt by the British government to introduce it in 2008 was met with strong opposition.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »