Published Friday, 08 March 2013
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Last week, MLAs from the DUP and SDLP jointly tabled an amendment which would make it illegal to carry out terminations other than on Health and Social Care Trust premises.
It is set to be debated in the Assembly next week.
Meanwhile draft guidelines on how and when abortions should be carried out in NI have been circulated to members of the Executive by Health Minister Edwin Poots.
It is understood the long-anticipated papers include proposals that two doctors rather than one should make the assessment - and that a consultant psychiatrist should be contacted when any mental health assessment is required. They will be consulted for the next 16 weeks.
Speaking on UTV Live, Mr Poots said: "Up front it indicates that the protection of the life of the unborn child and the mother is very important.
Marie Stopes is outside our guidelines and that is why the amendment is a very important amendment and should be passed
"That is what we're taking care of. We also look at psychiatrists giving advice whenever it is mental health issues, that it isn't for an obstetrician to do that alone, and we also indicate that more than one doctor is involved in taking the decision."
Mr Ford argued the Criminal Justice Bill should not be used to regulate abortion and said he has written to church leaders to explain his concerns.
The Alliance leader added: "Tacking on a last-minute amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill is not the way to deal with this issue.
"I believe that the wording of the amendment could lead to overlapping offences and would cause confusion in an area where clarity is needed. Potentially, it could also criminalise certain forms of contraception and it would be liable to be challenged in the courts.
"I am aware that a number of people have expressed support for the proposed amendment. They may be unaware of all the issues involved. I have written to the leaders of the four main churches to explain my concerns."
The amendment was tabled by Paul Givan of the DUP and the SDLP's Alban Maginness, who have raised "grave concerns" about private sexual health care clinics.
Last year the Marie Stopes centre opened in Belfast.
It offers a range of services including ultrasound scans, STI testing and treatment, HIV testing, short and long-term contraceptive options and emergency contraception.
It is vital that there is a properly-informed debate on the regulation of abortion. There is clearly a gap in arrangements at present. But this amendment is not the way to address it
It also offers medical abortions which must adhere to the law as it stands in Northern Ireland and also be carried out before the ninth week of pregnancy.
The MLAs say it has presented "a challenge" to legislators, adding "grave concerns surfaced regarding the ability of private clinics to carry out abortive procedures without any form of transparency, oversight or accountability to the public".
Backing the amendment, DUP minister Mr Poots said: "At the moment, Marie Stopes is an unregulated body receiving money for carrying out abortions in Northern Ireland.
"The form of regulation that needs to be applied is best done under criminal justice law, as it is criminal justice law that brought in abortion guidelines in the first instance."
Under current legislation abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland, except in limited circumstances where the mother's life or mental well-being are considered at risk.
A cross-border, cross-party delegation met at Stormont on Friday in a show of support for the current abortion laws in place in the north and in the Republic of Ireland.
The law is currently being reviewed on both sides of the border.