Belfast Telegraph

Anti-abortion campaigner Bernadette Smyth defends her invites to talk at schools

Smyth was convicted of harassing Dawn Purvis, the head of the Marie Stopes clinic which provides contraception and advice on abortion

By Rebecca Black

An outspoken anti-abortion campaigner has defiantly responded to concerns about her appearing in local schools, by stating "mind your own business".

Precious Life chief Bernadette Smyth says she speaks at a number of events and institutions across the world, and queried why anyone would complain about her speaking at a school.

However, Audrey Simpson from the Family Planning Organisation said there was a risk children will hear only one sort of message.

Last year, Ms Smyth was convicted of harassing Dawn Purvis, the head of the Marie Stopes clinic which provides contraception and advice on abortion.

Ms Smyth was ordered to complete 100 hours community service, told to pay Ms Purvis £2,000 compensation and was handed a five-year restraining order. She is appealing the conviction.

The Belfast Telegraph was contacted by student Courtney Robinson who claimed Ms Smyth spoke at a school which she formerly attended.

She alleged that, by speaking at schools, pro-life campaigners "add to the stigma around abortion".

"Inviting Ms Smyth to speak in schools legitimises the bullying tactics used by groups like Precious Life against women dealing with unplanned pregnancies, medical practitioners and pro-choice campaigners," she claimed.

"Serious questions must be asked of school managements and the Minister of Education as to why such a figure is allowed to 'teach' in our schools," she added.

Ms Simpson from the Family Planning Association said: "We would never be invited into schools to talk from a pro-choice perspective, and I don't know of any other pro-choice organisation that is invited in. So the problem is that young people get only one side of the argument.

"If they want to bring in an anti-choice organisation, that is a school's choice. But they also have a responsibility to make sure that young people also hear the other side of the argument."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said it is up to individual schools who they invite to speak to children.

The department has advised schools to have a policy in place with regard their stance on relationship and sexual education.

Ms Smyth told the Belfast Telegraph: "I don't think that that is anyone's business really, what would be the story in that?

"There are pro-life speakers speaking at schools all the time, what would the concerns be with me? I am an international speaker, I have spoken all over the world. A lot of my work is about speaking to people about the message of life. If someone has a complaint about me they should write me a letter or an email."

Background

Bernadette Smyth is the founder of Precious Life, and she, along with other campaigners, have protested at the doors of the Marie Stopes clinic since it opened in Belfast two years ago. Marie Stopes is the first private organisation to offer early medical abortions in Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph