Pro-life campaigner asks public to fund appeal against barring order
One of Ireland’s most prominent anti-abortion activists is urging the public to fund her fight to overturn a restraining order banning her from approaching a Belfast abortion clinic.
Bernadette Smyth, who leads the Precious Life group, was convicted of harassing visitors to the Marie Stopes centre, a clinic belonging to the UK's largest abortion charity.
Opened two years ago in Belfast City, the centre has become a popular destination for Irish women seeking advice on abortions.
Read More: VIDEO: 'Anti-abortion protester showed me foetus doll' outside Irish Marie Stopes clinic
Ms Smyth was barred from approaching the clinic after she was found guilty of harassing the centre's former director Dawn Purvis on two separate occasions in 2014.
When imposing the restraining order, the judge told Ms Smyth that she could no longer engage in “pestering, interfering or molesting” anyone visiting the centre.
In a scathing ruling, he said: “I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not feel it is appropriate for anyone to be stopped outside this clinic in any form, shape or fashion and forced into a conversation when they are almost certainly going to be stressed and very possibly distressed.”
Read More: 'I'm a Christian, not a witch' - pro-life campaigner tells court as she is accused of harassing woman outside abortion clinic
The 52-year-old is now seeking to appeal the decision and has asked the public to donate so she can “hire the best legal team in Northern Ireland”.
“The truth is this abortion business, who makes millions of pounds every year from killing poor innocent babies, wants to stop and end everything we have worked and sacrificed for,” she said.
“I really have to win my appeal. It would be an absolute tragedy for us all if I was unable to fight this case due to lack of funds.”
“I’m totally depending on you, because without your financial help and support Marie Stopes will win.”
Read More: Protests as first Irish abortion clinic opens its doors
Writing in a lengthy advert published in the Catholic Voice newspaper, Ms Smyth asked for donations ranging from €5 up to €5000.
“In this battle, losing is not an option… but let me assure you, it won’t happen on my watch because Precious Life are never going to give up because we have God Almighty on our side.”
“Every gift of €5 or €10 will really benefit our work. Or could you pledge €50… or as much as €100… or possibly even €500 or €1000? Or are you that person who could donate €5000 or more.”
“These gifts will give me the confidence to fight this unjust verdict. I’m in this battle to win and with your help and God on my side I cannot lose! God Bless,” she added.
Read More: Pro-life groups pick up couple's legal bill
Following five court appearances last year, the pro-life campaigner was sentenced to 100 hours of community service, given a five year restraining order, and told to pay £2,000 (€2750) in compensation to Ms Purvis.
During the case, which had been dogged by delays, the mother-of-four, and grandmother-of-three, consistently denied harassing anyone visiting the Belfast clinic.
The Marie Stopes centre has been picketed frequently by Precious Life and other anti-abortion groups since it opened two years ago.
However the protests escalation last January with women arriving for appointments in tears, claiming they had been followed and shouted at as they approached the centre.