A new abortion clinic in Belfast, Northern Ireland scheduled to open Oct. 18 has dismayed Bishop Noel Treanor of the Diocese of Down and Connor.
“The opening of this facility further undermines the sanctity and dignity of human life in our society where the most vulnerable and defenseless human beings are already under threat,” he said Oct. 10 in a statement released on the diocesan website.
The clinic, run by Marie Stopes International, would be the first private clinic in Northern Ireland to offer abortions.
Facility representatives have said it will not be performing surgical abortions, and will perform abortions only up to the ninth week of pregnancy.
“As a Christian community and as citizens, not only must we show compassion for women who find themselves facing an unwanted pregnancy, but we should support them to explore avenues which provide care while respecting the life of their child in the womb,” Bishop Treanor wrote.
“We should enable them to respond to such situations in a life-affirming and positive way.”
“It is with great concern and dismay,” he added, “that I, like many fellow citizens who value and seek to protect human life, received news of the decision to open a Marie Stopes Clinic in Belfast where medical abortion will be offered.”
Forty percent of Northern Ireland's population is Catholic. All but one party in the legislature there has members in the All Party Pro-Life Group.
Jim Allister, a Northern Irish legislator, told the BBC that Marie Stopes International is indeed pro-choice, “except for the unborn child, who has no choice, in their view, and who should be put to death, because that's what abortion is.”
While abortion is not illegal in Northern Ireland, it is severely restricted. Between 30 and 40 abortions per year are performed there by the National Health Service, the publicly funded healthcare system of the United Kingdom.
In Northern Ireland, abortions can be performed only to preserve the life of the mother or if continuing the pregnancy would result in serious physical or mental health issues.
The remainder of the U.K. is governed by the Abortion Act of 1967 and its modifications. There, elective abortions may be carried out up to the 24th week of pregnancy. After 24 weeks, abortions are allowed only if there is risk to the mother's life, severe fetal abnormality, or grave physical and mental injury to the mother.
In 2011, slightly more than 1,000 women from Northern Ireland travelled to England and Wales for an abortion.
Expectant mothers from the Republic of Ireland will be able to receive abortions at the Belfast clinic.
“It is the consistent teaching of the Catholic Church that, by virtue of their common humanity, the lives of both a mother and her unborn baby are sacred,” Bishop Treanor said.
“The termination of human life following conception denies the humanity and inherent dignity of the child in the womb and violates the right to life, the most basic human right of all.”