The parliamentary move Tuesday by Sinn Fein, the Alliance Party and the Greens means legislation that would have barred private clinics from performing abortions is almost certain to fail, the Belfast Telegraph reported. The measure comes up for debate Wednesday.
The Marie Stopes Clinic in Belfast, which opened late last year, is the only private abortion provider in Northern Ireland, while the Irish Republic has no private clinics. Abortion is legal only in very limited circumstances on both sides of the border.
Bernie Smyth, a leader of the anti-abortion group Precious Life, said Sinn Fein has committed "political suicide." Sinn Fein, a strongly republican party, is mostly supported by Catholics.
"This will go down in history, that when an attempt was made to strengthen the laws protecting Ireland's unborn babies and close the first private abortion clinic in Ireland, it was blocked by Sinn Fein," she said. "Sinn Fein is now the Judas party."
The major backer of the amendment to limit abortions to National Health Service facilities is the Democratic Unionist Party.