By Helen McBride
Under the backdrop of International Women’s Day, parties on opposite sides of the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland have come together in order to attach an abortion amendment to Stormont’s Criminal Justice Bill. Paul Givan of the DUP and Alban Maginness of the SDLP have tabled an amendment that would prevent private clinics from performing abortions, and restrict the practice to the NHS. It seems typical of political parties here to unite on a non-existent threat. The Marie Stopes Clinic, of which this amendment is undoubtedly the target, has always maintained an agreement to carryout medical procedures only within the legal framework that exists in Northern Ireland. Terminations are provided in Northern Ireland up to nine weeks gestation and only when the life of the pregnant women is at risk. Yet the motivation for this amendment has been a response to what Givan calls “the challenge that was presented when the Marie Stopes clinic opened in Northern Ireland and that revealed a loophole that private clinics are wholly unregulated.” This amendment will effectively criminalize the Marie Stopes Clinic, and with it, the women who need access to its legal services.