Abortion clinic to act within law, says Stopes


MARIE STOPES International has insisted it will act within the law at its Belfast clinic despite footage showing a former senior employee stating that it performs “illegal” abortions all over the world.

UK and Europe director Tracey McNeill yesterday repudiated as “reckless and irresponsible” a comment by a former South African employee that it performed illegal abortions.

The recording of the official is posted on the website of the Belfast-based Precious Life organisation which has launched a “Close the Door to Marie Stopes” campaign to prevent a clinic opening in Belfast this Thursday. It says the Marie Stopes organisation was caught on camera “admitting they break the law and perform illegal abortion all around the world”.

The video shows a clip of a Marie Stopes executive based in South Africa speaking at an organisation conference in London in 2007. In the clip the official is talking about attempts by Marie Stopes International to open a clinic in neighbouring Namibia where abortion is restricted.

In the video the former executive states: “There are various options once we open there. I mean we do illegal abortions all over the world,” also adding, “there are various things we can do if we can just get our foot in the door there”.

Ms McNeill insisted that the Belfast clinic would operate within the law.

In Northern Ireland abortion is only permitted if the woman’s life is in danger or where there are serious physical and mental health risks to the woman.

“This was a reckless and irresponsible comment by one individual who no longer works for us and is in no way reflective of our policies and practices,” she added. “As the person responsible for our services in the UK and Europe I will never allow any of our team members to act unlawfully . . . in the UK we have a 100 per cent compliance record with those regulating our centres. Marie Stopes International is one of the world’s largest and most responsible providers of sexual and reproductive healthcare: we work in over 40 countries . . . entirely within the legal and regulatory framework of that country.”

Minister of Health Edwin Poots said the clinic would be monitored to ensure it followed the North’s law on abortion. He said he is taking legal advice on how to regulate the clinic and whether it will come under the scope of the Regulation Quality and Improvement Authority, which has a regulatory role in relation to a number of health bodies in the North.

“I think it has to be regulated. But it will be regulated one way or the other, either through the police or ourselves, it will be regulated,” the Minister told BBC Northern Ireland’s Politics Show.