The Northern Ireland assembly has voted down a proposal to ban private clinics from carrying out abortions in the province, reports the BBC.
The proposal was included as an amendment to a new Criminal Justice Bill and attempted to prevent private organisations from carrying out abortions. At present, organisations including Marie Stopes carry out abortions under contract.
The proposal was put forward by two Democratic Unionist and Social Democratic and Labour Party members, but was blocked by a coalition formed by Sinn Fein and the Alliance and Green Parties.
The opponents were able to block the measure, despite being in the minority, by proposing a 'petition of concern', that then requires cross-community support and a majority of 60% of voting members with at least 40% from nationalist and unionist voters.
Opponents of the measure said they were not 'pro-abortion' but believe that appropriate abortion services should be available for women who suffer from rape or sexual assault and also from incestuous relationships.
The bills proposers, Paul Given of the DUP, said that abortions should be restricted to the NHS. The move came after a private Marie Stopes clinic opened in Belfast last year, prompting criticisms from locals and MLAs.
"We could have stopped it but some people decided they would have a petition of concern to allow that business to carry on their practice under that cloak of darkness where nobody can hold them to account," said Health Minister Edwin Poots.