A high-profile anti-abortion campaigner Bernadette Smyth, has been ordered to do 100 hours’ community service and pay £2,000 compensation for harassing Dawn Purvis the director of a Marie Stopes clinic.
The 51-year-old had denied harassing Ms Purvis, a former Progressive Unionist Party assembly member, on two dates earlier this year. The Marie Stopes clinic is the first private clinic to offer early medical abortions to women in Northern Ireland under its strict legal controls. Anti-abortion campaigners have gathered at the centre since it opened in October 2012.
Mrs Smyth, who leads the Precious Life group, had been warned she could face jail when she was convicted last month. Her solicitor Aidan Carlin described the verdict as “a disappointment for Christians worldwide”. But passing sentence at Belfast Magistrates’ Court, Deputy District Judge Chris Holmes said he had taken into account Smyth’s good character and clear record. He said: “You are somebody of impeccable character. “You are somebody from an obviously good background and have worked very hard with the community over a long time. I am prepared to accept all of that.”
The courtroom in the Laganside complex in Belfast city was packed to capacity. Ahead of the hearing, around 20 supporters gathered in a circle to pray in the corridor outside the courtroom.
In other news…
The UK’s highest court has told two Catholic midwives they do not have the right to avoid supervising other nurses involved in abortion procedures. The Supreme Court in London ruled that Mary Doogan and Connie Wood should have to support staff who are caring for patients having terminations. The midwives previously won their case at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s appeal said the right to abstain should only extend to treatment ending a pregnancy. Ms Doogan, from Garrowhill in Glasgow, and Mrs Wood, from Clarkston in East Renfrewshire, were employed as labour ward co-ordinators at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.
They challenged whether NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) could require them to delegate, supervise and support staff who were involved in carrying out abortions. The Court of Session in Edinburgh initially ruled in 2012 that their human rights had not been violated as they were not directly involved in terminations.
At the time, judge Lady Smith said: “Nothing they have to do as part of their duties terminates a woman’s pregnancy. “They are sufficiently removed from direct involvement as, it seems to me, to afford appropriate respect for and accommodation of their beliefs.” But last year, appeal court judges overturned Lady Smith’s judgement, ruling the “right of conscientious objection extends not only to the actual medical or surgical termination but to the whole process of treatment given for that purpose”. Both women said that ruling affirmed the rights of all midwives to withdraw from a practice that would “violate their conscience”.
NHS GGC later asked the Supreme Court to examine whether section 4(1) of the Abortion Act 1967, which provides that “no person shall be under any duty… to participate in any treatment authorised by this Act to which he has a conscientious objection”, extends to labour ward co-ordinators.
These 3 brave Catholic women have put there jobs, their freedom and their reputations on the line to stand up and defend the unborn and their Catholic faith. They are a wonderful example to us all.
As UK and European laws become more and more hostile towards Catholics, more and more of us will be faced with the questions: How far will you go to defend your Faith? How much are you willing to give? How much do you really believe?
It is my true belief that the church thrives with more purity, faith and passion than ever, in times of persecution. A bit of persecution does wonders in separating the wheat from the chaff, and in my honest opinion the Church needs a good clear out. Bring it on!
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:10-12
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” – John 15:18-19