Bernadette Smyth interview: I’m a different person after court case

Bernadette Smyth had her original sentence overturned on appeal
Bernadette Smyth had her original sentence overturned on appeal

In December 2014 Bernadette Smyth, head of anti-abortion group Precious Life, was sentenced to 100-hours community service and a restraining order for harassing the previous head of the Marie Stopes clinic, Dawn Purvis.

The conviction was later overturned on appeal due to insufficient evidence.

“A lot of people were heartbroken because of what I had to go through,” she says.

“I’ve come out of it a different person – it sharpened me, it’s matured me. I was pretty naive to the capabilities of people, but I’m happy to close the chapter.

“It was a difficult 18 months for me and my family. It was tough for my children to see their mother going through this.

“I don’t see the Dawn Purvises of this world as my enemy. In fact I don’t look on my life on the negative, I look at it on the positive. I don’t get up any day to do anybody any harm.”

Some people remain shocked by the intensity, some might say Bible belt tactics of the pro-life demonstrations, the plastic foetuses, the loudspeakers and literature, often bearing images of aborted foetuses. But Bernie refutes this.

“I believe that more people would be in support of our style, than would be opposed to it.

“There shouldn’t be anything about it (the images) that would be upsetting to anybody – you learn about it in science.”

And of the claims women have been harassed coming out of Marie Stopes, she says: “I have never followed a woman down the street – there is no evidence to say that I personally did that.

‘‘If someone is at Marie Stopes and reaching a leaflet out to that woman, she has to come up against Marie Stopes escorts who would be very aggressive towards our volunteers who are there to offer another choice.

“They are preventing that woman from receiving that literature, bouncing about, jumping up and down and hands in the air – that is more disturbing for a woman who is in a crisis pregnancy.

“We respect life from the womb to the tomb. That includes every person, whether that be an abortionist or the people like Dawn Purvis who promote it. I believe all life is precious.”

Earlier this week Stormont Assembly voted 59 to 40 against amending legislation to allow terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and sexual crime.

She is unflinching in her belief abortion is never the answer, whether the woman has been raped, is the victim of incest or the baby has fatal foetal abnormalities.

“Taking the life of any unborn child, in any situation is always wrong – I could never endorse that.

“Even in those cases where the baby would die in utero. Aborting that baby is not going to change the circumstances.

“Poppy Grace is a baby that you’ll see in many of our literature. Her mother was advised that because her baby had a life-limited condition, that abortion was the best option, but she wanted help and support and it’s not available in Northern Ireland, there’s no perinatal care, there’s no hospice care for babies born with life-limiting conditions.

“I worked through the pregnancy with the mother Christina. Poppy Grace lived for eight days.

“I was there after she was born, to see this beautiful special needs child and to hold her and to know that I bought time for that child.

“In those cases where a mother has been given help, she will hold her baby, which has a healing affect, she will have a grave to visit, she will have memories.

“When I speak for unborn children I would fight for their lives like they are my own children.”