BEFLAST, October 11, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-life people in Northern Ireland and around the world were shocked today at the announcement that international abortion giant Marie Stopes will open an abortion facility in Belfast, despite abortion remaining a criminal act in the province. In a surprise move, Marie Stopes revealed that on October 18th their Belfast outlet will begin offering early-term “medical” or chemical abortions as well as other “family planning” services like contraceptives. Pro-life advocates have called the move illegal and said it is nothing more than a political dodge intended to circumvent and ultimately overturn the law through the courts.

Marie Stopes is claiming that it will be acting within the law, which allows abortion in cases where it is “necessary to preserve the life of the woman or there is a risk of real and serious adverse effect on her physical or mental health, which is either long term or permanent”. They said they will offer chemical abortions to women up to the ninth week of pregnancy, as well as abortifacient “emergency contraceptives”.

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Edwin Poots said, “This condition applies no less strongly before nine weeks than longer into the pregnancy.”

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The situation is being described by other pro-life observers as “critical” since Northern Ireland, together with the Republic of Ireland in the south, is one of the few places left in the Western world to hold out against full legalisation of abortion. As such the island has long been a target of some of the heaviest pressure from international pro-abortion campaigners and lobbyists. Several recent attempts have failed in Northern Ireland to bring in legalisation through the “back door” of medical guidelines and regulations.

Bernadette Smyth, the head of the province’s leading pro-life group Precious Life, told LifeSiteNews.com on the telephone that Marie Stopes claim that abortion is legal in N. Ireland up to the ninth week is “nonsense”. She was clear on one point, the facility will be acting illegally: “It will be an illegal abortion clinic.”

“These people just came in and set up a clinic,” Smyth said. “They’ve been working on this plan for apparently two years.”

Precious Life is “seeking legal advice” and has contacted the police and the Department of Public Prosecutions. They will be presenting evidence that Marie Stopes knows they are acting outside the law. Smyth related that Precious Life has proof that one of Marie Stopes’ African officials admitted at a conference in London that they commit illegal abortions in African countries that outlaw the procedure.

Asked if she thought that the Belfast facility is a political ploy to do an end run around the Legislative Assembly of Northern Ireland, she agreed.

“That’s what we’re worried about,” Smyth said, “that if we take an injunction against them, we won’t have any further arguments against them because the police will protect them.”

Although the facility’s location has been kept a secret, Smyth revealed that today pro-life activists have learned where it is. Smyth said, however, that public protests are not planned for the moment and Precious Life and other groups are focusing their efforts on contacting legal and parliamentary authorities.

She said the situation is “very similar” to that of the work of abortion pioneer Dr. Henry Morgentaler who in the late 1970s and early 80s forced the issue into Canada by openly operating illegal abortion facilities in Toronto while the procedure was still outlawed. By arresting Morgentaler and pursuing the case, prosecutors eventually played into the abortion movement’s hands, bringing the case into the courts that finally overturned the law without a democratic mandate.

Smyth said that her group has found support from the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, who is arguing on behalf of the Department of Health that the purpose of the law in Northern Ireland law “is to protect unborn children” not to give abortionists excuses to introduce early-term chemical abortions.

She denied claims that Marie Stopes is acting on behalf of women who need abortion in extreme medical circumstances. “There is no way that an abortion in the first nine weeks of pregnancy can possibly address any of the long term medical concerns for the mother”.

Marie Stopes is arguing that offering early-term chemical abortions before nine weeks falls within the letter of the law in Northern Ireland. But Smyth said that medical experts have advised her group that the only life-threatening situation early in pregnancy that normally results in the un-intended death of the unborn child is an ectopic pregnancy. This medical situation, however, is not possible to “treat” using chemical abortion techniques, or even surgical abortion techniques. The only treatment that will save the life of the mother is the surgical removal of the fallopian tube, which is not an abortion, and cannot be conducted in an abortion facility.

Recently, a meeting of obstetricians and other medical experts issued a statement saying that there is no “medical necessity” for abortion, as its proponents often claim.

LifeSiteNews.com spoke with Jim Hughes, the head of Canada’s Campaign Life Coalition, who was involved in the battles in the 1980s with Henry Morgentaler. Hughes, who also serves as the vice president of the International Pro-life Committee, said that Marie Stopes is clearly using the Morgentaler technique in Belfast.

“Break the law in order to change it,” he said. For decades, abortion campaigners tried to break Canada’s laws, but it was not until Morgentaler simply defied it, and was arrested and taken through the court system, that they finally won, and Canada’s law was thrown out.

“They are obviously doing an end run around the democratic rights of the people of Northern Ireland. I’m appalled to hear it,” Hughes said. He added that if it succeeds in Northern Ireland, it will show a way forward for activists in other countries. Ireland, he said, is a “key situation” for the pro-life movement around the world.

But Hughes said that he does not anticipate the ploy will succeed as it did in Canada. “I’m most encouraged by the actions of the people of Northern Ireland to keep abortion out,” he told LifeSiteNews.

Multiple polls have shown that the public in the province has no interest in bringing in the full provisions of the UK’s Abortion Act 1967. Demand for travel to the UK for abortion has fallen 36 per cent in the last 15 years in both the Republic and in Northern Ireland.

Hughes said, “I fully expect that the politicians would have the courage to ensure the law is enforced.”