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Dawn Purvis, programme director with Marie Stopes Northern Ireland, in her new Belfast office in the city centre. Paul Faith/PA Wire/Press Association Images

'Don't counter-demonstrate in Belfast', Marie Stopes International urges

The organisation is to open its Belfast clinic on Thursday, and is expecting planned protests – but asks people not to counter-protest, to ensure public safety.

MARIE STOPES INTERNATIONAL is to open a health and reproductive clinic, which offers private abortion services, in Belfast this Thursday.

The organisation has today appealed to people not to organise counter-demonstrations against any protests which may be held against its opening.

On its website, it says:

We are aware that some groups may be planning protests against the opening of the centre on Thursday. In response to these planned protests we have been working with the police in order to protect the women and men coming to our centre, and to ensure public safety. We would therefore ask that people consider not organising or attending any counter protests.

The organisation suggests:

If you would like to show your support for the centre, we would encourage you to continue to do so using social and traditional media.

Marie Stopes International also thanks people “for the thousands of positive messages we have received from the women and men of Belfast over the past week”, adding it is “extremely grateful for your support”.

The opening of the clinic was criticised by Bishop of Down and Connor, Noel Treanor, who said he had “great concern and dismay” about it. The Catholic Church has just launched a Choose Life campaign which promotes an anti-abortion message.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s Health Minister, Edwin Poots, said that the clinic will be monitored and regulated, and he is seeking advice on how to do this.

The clinic will be the first to offer private abortions on the island of Ireland. 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.

Read: NI health minister taking legal advice on regulating abortion clinic>

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

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