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Anti-abortion crusader claims NI-bound play 'trivialising' the issue

By Cate McCurry

Pro-life campaigner Bernie Smyth has slammed a taboo-breaking play about abortion as an insensitive attempt to excuse terminations.

The show features young female actors using words, music, beats and rhyme to portray the stories of real women who have experienced pregnancy and abortion.

It has been described as a "funny, frank, and moving new play" about the subject.

Entitled I Told My Mum I Was Going On An RE Trip, the writer and co-artistic director Julia Samuels recorded more than 50 interviews with young women, parents, health professionals and campaigners from both sides of the debate to form the basis of the script.

One of the interviews proved the inspiration for the title of the play.

Director of Precious Life Smyth, however, criticised the production's attempt to "desensitise" abortion.

"Promoters of the play describe it as 'frank and funny' and claim it will explore the human stories of the women involved," she said.

"But there is nothing 'funny' about abortion. This play is an attempt to trivialise the very serious issue of abortion.

"Will it address the devastating physical and psychological harm caused to women by abortion?"

The mother-of-four also questioned whether the play would "explore the human stories" of the "unborn babies" involved in terminations.

Award-winning companies 20 Stories High and Contact co-produced the play, which is directed by Ms Samuels.

It has been hailed as an "engaging and accessible" work with its use of live music and spoken word.

Following one of the shows, there will be a discussion involving representatives from both sides of the debate.

Lisa Hallgarten, national co-ordinator of the sex education forum at the National Children's Bureau will chair the discussion.

She will be joined by Emma Campbell from Alliance for Choice; Marion Woods from Life NI; Dr Fiona Bloomer, a lecturer at Ulster University's School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy, and Mary Crawford, director of Brook in Belfast.

Mrs Smyth claimed the representation on the discussion forum indicated there would be "no fairness or balance".

She insisted that women who had abortions often felt abandoned or even coerced.

"Worldwide statistics gathered reveal that the primary reasons women with unintended pregnancies turn to abortion are lack of financial resources and lack of emotional support," she said.

"The women at highest risk of resorting to abortion are those of college age.

"One out of five abortions occurs in this age group.

"For many years Precious Life's college outreach programme has been listening to women on campuses across the UK.

"Women who tested positive for pregnancy at a campus tell us - almost universally - that the next words they heard from clinic staff were 'I'm so sorry'.

"Then they were handed a business card for a local abortion clinic."

The play will be staged at The Mac in Belfast from February 22-24.

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