Today, Northern Ireland opened its first private abortion clinic, the Marie Stopes Family Planning Center, in Belfast. The center will operate in accordance with the laws of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which permits strictly restricted abortions. The center will offer surgical abortion within the first nine weeks of pregnancy and administer medical abortion, which is induced through taking a pill, only if a medical doctor determines the pregnancy would result in long-term health effects or death for the mother.

Yet, according to the vice president of Marie Stopes, Tracey McNeill, “mostly what we’ll be doing is offering advice. Many of the people we see we won’t be able to treat, because of the legal framework.” Critical awareness of women’s reproductive health issues like contraception and sexually transmitted diseases will also be made available at the clinic.

The opening was met by fierce anti-abortion protests sponsored by Catholic and conservative Protestant organizations. As a result of the protests, Northern Ireland’s Attorney General, John Larkin, has questioned the legitimacy of the clinic’s opening under law and has called for an investigation.

Media Resources: BBC 10/18/12; Washington Post 10/18/12; Guardian 10/18/12