Protests as Ireland’s 1st abortion clinic opens

October 19, 2012 • World News

A protester opposed to abortion holds a placard outside the Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Thursday, 18, 2012. The first abortion clinic on the island of Ireland has opened in Belfast, sparking protests by Christian conservatives from both the Catholic and Protestant sides of Northern Ireland’s divide. The Marie Stopes center plans to offer the abortion pill to women less than nine weeks pregnant _ but only if doctors determine they’re at risk of death or long-term health damage from their pregnancy. That’s the law in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, where abortion is otherwise illegal. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) — The first abortion clinic on the island of Ireland opened Thursday in downtown Belfast, unleashing angry protests on the street and uniting Catholic and Protestant politicians in calls to investigate the new facility.

The clinic, run by the British family planning charity Marie Stopes, will be permitted to provide abortions only in exceptional circumstances to women less than nine weeks pregnant.

But the opening caught Northern Ireland’s socially conservative politicians off guard, and they vowed to launch an investigation into how the clinic operates. About 400 protesters who lined the sidewalk outside the facility all day said they were certain that public pressure would force authorities to shut it.

“I expect the heads of government to run Marie Stopes out of Northern Ireland,” the protest leader, Bernadette Smyth of the pressure group Precious Life, told supporters through a bullhorn. “Those who have come … storm heaven with your prayers!”

Abortion is one of few issues that unites Northern Ireland, a predominantly Protestant corner of the United Kingdom, and the mostly Catholic Republic of Ireland. Both jurisdictions keep abortion outlawed except in Login to read more

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