Pro-life leader convicted of cackling
by Bob Brown
Posted 11/21/14, 08:35 am
Northern Ireland’s leading pro-life activist faces jail time after her conviction Wednesday for harassing the operator of that region’s only abortion center.
Government prosecutors said Bernadette Smyth, 51, had threatened Dawn Purvis, the director of the Marie Stopes abortion center in Belfast. Police had served Smyth with a notice of warning regarding her conduct outside the center, but Smyth had no prior criminal record. The judge in the case has ordered Smyth to pay compensatory damages and to stay away from the Stopes center.
Security camera footage from Jan. 9 outside the abortion center shows Purvis asking protesters to stop harassing her. She claimed in court that Smyth replied in an American drawl, “You ain’t seen harassment yet, darling.” Purvis also stated that Smyth had “cackled like a witch” during an incident a month later. Smyth admitted she had laughed but denied any wrongdoing.
Smyth founded Precious Life in 1997 after she saw a picture of an aborted baby. Precious Life has engaged in sidewalk counseling outside the Stopes center since it opened in October 2012. It is the only abortion center in either Ireland or Northern Ireland. In both lands abortion is legal only in cases where a doctor says the mother’s life is at risk. Stopes also refers women to abortionists in England, where about 4,000 women from Ireland and 1,000 women from Northern Ireland travel annually for abortions.
Bob is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute’s mid-career course.