Stanton Healthcare to open anti-abortion clinic in Belfast
An American anti-abortion healthcare provider is planning to open a clinic in Belfast, the BBC has learned.
Stanton Healthcare aims to have a clinic operating in the city centre by early 2015.
It will be the firm's first facility outside the USA. It currently has clinics in Idaho and California.
Stanton Healthcare has describe itself as "a revolutionary organisation that seeks to replace abortion businesses around the world".
The not-for-profit organisation was found in Boise, Idaho, by a Christian activist called Brandi Swindell in 2009.
Representatives from Stanton Healthcare recently visited Belfast, and the BBC understands that they have identified premises on Great Victoria Street in the city as a site for the clinic.
The facility would therefore be close to Belfast's Marie Stopes clinic, which has been open since 2012.
The BBC understands that Stanton Healthcare plans to offer pregnancy counselling and also medical facilities like ultrasound scans.
The firm has claimed that over 90% of what they describe as "abortion-vulnerable women" who have ultrasound scans at their Boise clinic choose to give birth.
Although Stanton Healthcare described itself as a faith-based organisation, it is not affiliated to any single Christian denomination.
However, its staff are working closely with the Northern Ireland-based anti-abortion organisation, Precious Life.
Bernadette Smyth from Precious Life welcomed Stanton Healthcare's plans.
"We would hope that women in crisis pregnancy would be given free ultrasound, free pregnancy tests and support," she told BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme.
"We want to provide a better service that's not available here."
In Northern Ireland, Justice Minister David Ford is to consult on changing abortion laws to allow women carrying babies with fatal foetal abnormalities to have a termination.
He plans to publish the proposed legislation this autumn.