Northern Ireland’s first private abortion clinic has opened in Belfast, to protests from pro-life campaigners.
Unlike the rest of the UK, abortion is illegal there unless the mother’s mental or physical health is immediately threatened.
Only a few dozen abortions are carried out each year in public hospitals.
Anti-abortion campaigners say the Marie Stopes clinic is not needed.
“We have good obstetricians here, we have a Department of Health who cares for both mothers and babies, and it’s not a choice to take the life of an unborn child. There’s two people in every pregnancy,” said Bernadette Smyth, from the group “Precious Life”.
The new clinic says it will carry out medical abortion up to nine weeks’ gestation.
More than a thousand women went to England or Wales last year to terminate pregnancies.
The strict rules mean some women resort to ordering termination pills online. 23-year-old Suzanne Lee says she did so because she did not feel ready to have a baby.
“I have no regrets about the abortion. I have regrets about essentially now how people treat me, (and) the fact that I had to go through the majority of it with no medical help,” she said.
The law means the new clinic is unlikely to be able to help other women in similar situations, although some commentators say exactly when abortion is allowed in practice is unclear.
Northern Ireland’s Attorney General John Larkin, the Executive’s chief legal adviser, has called for an official investigation into the clinic’s opening.
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