An American pro-life organisation has opened its first clinic outside the United States - and wants to 'replace' Marie Stopes
Oct 14, 2016
By Meabh Ritchie
US pro-life organisation Stanton Healthcare has opened a clinic on Great Victoria Street in Belfast, on the same street as the city's branch of Marie Stopes.
Stanton says it is “in direct opposition to the abortion business of Marie Stopes”.
According to Precious Life, a local protest group who are working closely with the organisation, the centre will provide free medical support to pregnant women, including ultrasounds and counselling for those who have had abortions.
This is believed to be Stanton's first clinic to open outside of the America and Republican US Congressman Chris Smith flew in to Belfast to support the launch, which took place this week. The clinic officially opened yesterday.
Also in attendance was Precious Life director Bernadette Smyth, who in December was sentenced to 100-hours community service and a restraining order for harassing the previous head of the Marie Stopes clinic, Dawn Purvis. The conviction was later overturned on appeal due to insufficient evidence.
On its website, Stanton Healthcare says its aim is to “provide life-affirming options to abortion-vulnerable women and provide hope to those struggling from the pain of a past abortion”.
The organisation was founded in 2006 by Christian activist Brandi Swindell.
Unlike the rest of the UK, abortion in Northern Ireland is only legal in very limited circumstances, when a mother's life is in danger.
Just 23 terminations were carried out in Northern Ireland's NHS hospitals in 2014, while an estimated 2,000 women travel to England each year to have the procedure.
In June this year, 200 women in Northern Ireland wrote an open letter, admitting to taking 'illegal' abortion pills or helping others procure them - a criminal offence in the country.
In a statement, Precious Life said the clinic offered a “revolution in pregnancy health care” and that the long term goal of the centre was to replace the Marie Stopes clinic.
“Since the opening of Marie Stopes in Belfast in 2012, women in Northern Ireland have been exploited and used by greedy abortion providers like Marie Stopes who care more about making profit than they do about supporting vulnerable women.
”Stanton Healthcare will offer a much needed alternative at no cost because we believe that women and their unborn children deserve better than abortion."
Regular protests by pro-life activists have been held outside the Stopes clinic since its opening in 2012.
However the abortion law has come under scrutiny in recent years, due in part to high profile legal cases.
Currently going through the courts is a challenge by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), which is calling for the procedure to legalised in cases of rape, incest or "serious malformation".