Belfast Telegraph

'Institutionalise suicidal women': Bernadette Smyth's call on vulnerable who are seeking abortion

By Deborah McAleese

Pregnant women seeking to terminate their pregnancy because they are suicidal should be institutionalised until the baby is born, pro-life activist Bernadette Smyth has said.

The Precious Life director – heavily involved in an all-party pro-life group in Stormont – said that instead of granting an abortion to a vulnerable woman at risk of suicide, she should receive psychiatric care and, if necessary, hospitalisation.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Ms Smyth praised medics in the Republic of Ireland for their refusal to terminate the pregnancy of a young asylum-seeker who claimed to have been raped and was suicidal. Her baby was delivered by Caesarean section at almost 27 weeks.

"The right decision was made in this case not to abort the baby. She'll never regret giving birth to her baby, but she would have regretted an abortion," said Ms Smyth.

She added: "In some cases, women who are suicidal during pregnancy may even need to be institutionalised. Eliminate the problem, not take the life."

In Northern Ireland abortion is only granted to save a woman's life or if there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health. As a result more than 1,000 women each year travel to have an abortion in other parts of the UK.

It has emerged, however, that some clinics in the UK are to begin restricting the number of women from Ireland who travel there for terminations.

Liverpool Women's Hospital, which delivers expert care to women seeking terminations in cases of severe and fatal foetal anomalies, is to restrict the number of patients it will accept from Ireland. So, too, is Birmingham.

Stormont's Department of Justice is expected to put out a set of proposals for consultation in October that will look at changing abortion laws to allow women carrying babies with fatal foetal abnormalities to have a termination.

But Ms Smyth – spokeswoman for a group made up of 10 male MLAs from the SDLP, UUP, DUP, Alliance and TUV, that seeks "to promote a pro-life perspective in the Northern Ireland Assembly" – said there was "no will to change the law in any circumstances".

"We cannot destroy children in or out of the womb. It is very difficult to go through a pregnancy like that and I have every sympathy... (but) we can't eliminate these special needs children whether they are going to live minutes or not survive," Ms Smyth said.

Precious Life activists continue to maintain a presence outside Marie Stopes in Belfast – Ireland's first private clinic to offer abortions.

Ms Smyth claimed that a number of women to arrive at the clinic for a termination changed their mind after speaking to Precious Life volunteers outside the building.

Profile

Mother-of-three Bernadette Smyth worked in retail until 1997 when she decided to leave work and use her savings to set up the anti-abortion campaign group Precious Life. The group describes itself as "the largest pro-life group in Northern Ireland and the only pro-life group actively working on the streets every day". Ms Smyth, from Ballymena, said she set up Precious Life as she did not want to "turn a blind eye" to the "silent holocaust".

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