Belfast Telegraph

Pro-life activist Bernie Smyth considers politics career

By Claire McNeilly

Controversial pro-life campaigner Bernie Smyth is considering a career in politics.

The Precious Life director told the Belfast Telegraph she may stand as an independent candidate in next year's Assembly elections.

The mother-of-four, who recently had a conviction for harassment overturned on appeal, also revealed that former First Minister and DUP leader, the late Ian Paisley, was a firm supporter of her anti-abortion stance.

Mr Paisley, she added, told her he would "walk in a march with the Pope" when it came to standing up against abortion.

"I am considering running in the 2016 Stormont election as an independent candidate on a pro-life ticket," said Mrs Smyth, adding that she could count DUP members among her supporters.

"I feel it might be a necessity for the future generation of unborn children that a pro-life party is set up to defend them and to support women."

Last month, Mrs Smyth was cleared of harassing former Marie Stopes clinic director Dawn Purvis after a judge ruled there was insufficient evidence against her.

In December, she had been convicted of harassing the former PUP leader on two dates in January and February of last year.

In today's interview, Mrs Smyth told the Belfast Telegraph that the day of the appeal hearing coincided with a close family member getting the all-clear after a major health scare. Her successful appeal verdict made it a day of double celebration for the 52-year-old high-profile activist and her family.

"A very close family member was in hospital on the morning of my case," she said.

"I wanted to be there but couldn't attend because I had to be in court. Thank God, just before the case started I got a text saying: 'Don't worry, it's all clear, everything is fine.' So that ended up as a very good day." Now that the appeal is behind her, the grandmother-of-five has vowed to devote her energies towards a fight against companies offering illegal abortion pills to Northern Ireland women.

Last month the Belfast Telegraph exclusively revealed that the influential parenting site Mumsnet was supporting a charity that supplies them.

Its annual charity appeal backed The Abortion Support Network - a group that helps women from Northern Ireland to travel to England for terminations, as well as advising those in the early stages of pregnancy on how to obtain pills.

Mrs Smyth said she wanted the suppliers and distributors of abortion pills prosecuted. "I'm concerned we have a group of people who are willing to undermine the law," the Ballymena woman said.

"They want to medicalise a crime by offering the abortion pill illegally. But even in the UK, where abortion is available on demand to a certain extent, it still wouldn't be legal for anyone to give the pill out over the internet."

Mrs Smyth, who has been an anti-abortion activist for 18 years, said she has been speaking to legal representatives in Northern Ireland and in the UK.

"We're looking at a UK approach to this because they are in breach of the law in England as well," she said.

"I'm reporting it to the police and I'll be speaking to the Health Minister."

The Big Interview, Pages 20&21

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