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NI health minister taking legal advice on regulating abortion clinic

Edwin Poots tells the BBC the Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast, opening on Thursday, will be ‘regulated one way or the other’.

Edwin Poots, Northern Ireland's health minister, has assured that the Marie Stopes clinic will be fully regulated - though it remains unclear whether the North's existing regulator has the power to do so.
Edwin Poots, Northern Ireland's health minister, has assured that the Marie Stopes clinic will be fully regulated - though it remains unclear whether the North's existing regulator has the power to do so.
Image: Paul Faith/PA Archive

NORTHERN IRELAND’S health minister has said the private abortion clinic opening in Belfast this week – the first to operate anywhere on the island of Ireland – will be monitored and regulated, and he is seeking legal advice on how to do so.

Edwin Poots told the BBC that he was seeking advice on whether the North’s Regulation Quality and Improvement Authority, its equivalent to HIQA in the Republic, has the necessary authority to regulate the private Marie Stopes International clinic.

If the new clinic does not fall under that authority’s power, Poots said it would be regulated by the police or government until a formal solution was identified.

“I think it has to be regulated, but it will be regulated one way or the other,” BBC News quotes Poots as tell the broadcaster’s Sunday Politics programme.

“Either through the police or ourselves, it will be regulated.”

Poots said he would prefer if the RQIA, an agency under the remit of his own department, was empowered to regulate the clinic.

A Marie Stopes director said the organisation was keen to speak to the North’s health authorities to discuss how its operations could be regulated.

The clinic, scheduled to open on Thursday, says it will offer abortions up to nine weeks of pregnancy. It will cater to women from both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Northern Irish law only permits abortion in order to preserve the life of the mother, or if continuing with the pregnancy will result in serious risks to the physical or mental health of the mother.

This morning’s Sunday Times reports that pro-life campaigners in the North are planning legal action, hoping to seek an injunction against the clinic offering any abortions.

Perspectives: How does an abortion clinic in the North affect the Republic?

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Gavan Reilly

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