Healthcare news

Marie Stopes Belfast clinic shuts after British government move to fund abortions

The Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast is to close
Michael McHugh, Press Association

A Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast is to close after the British government funded abortion treatment for Northern Irish women in England.

Law surrounding the procedure in Northern Ireland is more restrictive than the rest of the UK.

Marie Stopes UK said more than three quarters of Northern Irish women already come to their clinics directly through a national referral service.

Managing director Richard Bentley said: "Following the UK government's ground-breaking move to fund abortion services for Northern Irish women using our clinics in England, we believe we can better serve Northern Irish women through our national referral service than through an independent clinic in one part of Northern Ireland.

"Therefore we have taken the difficult decision that our Belfast clinic will close in December 2017."

Northern Ireland's strict laws on terminations result in women making the journey across the Irish Sea to access abortions.

Those on low incomes who seek a free NHS abortion in England will also receive state support to pay for their travel costs, the British government has announced.

Mr Bentley said for five years the Belfast team had provided services allowed within a highly restrictive legal framework and worked tirelessly to drive awareness of women's options.

"We are incredibly proud of all that our team has achieved in Belfast.

"However, we also have to recognise that, due to the UK government's funding announcement, the way Northern Irish women access services is changing.

"Today more than three-quarters of the Northern Irish women we see come to us directly via our national referral service.

"We expect this proportion to increase further now that treatment in England has been made more accessible."

He said Northern Irish law should change to give women the right to access services without having to travel to England.

"Until that happens, we will continue to provide funded treatment for Northern Irish women in England - services that they should be legally granted in Northern Ireland."

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