WE STAND WITH BERNADETTE SMYTH: COURT RULING IS BOTH RIDICULOUS AND DEEPLY TROUBLING SAY PRO-LIFE GROUPS
Ms Smyth, founder of the internationally-respected pro-life outreach, Precious Life, is widely admired for her compassionate efforts to assist mothers in crisis, and to stop abortion.
Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute said that it was farcical that the case had come to the court in the first instance, and that the decision convicting Ms Smyth of harassment was ridiculous.
"This court decision will be appealed, and rightly so, because the ruling strikes against the civil and human rights of every citizen to speak up against abortion. Furthermore, it doesn't speak to the facts of the case, which were that Bernadette at no time approached or threatened any Marie Stopes employee," she said.
"It is ridiculous to believe that laughter constitutes harassment, or that Dawn Purvis was intimidated by pro-life people praying and counselling peacefully outside her clinic," she said.
Ms Purvis opened a Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast in 2012, seeking to become the first private clinic to offer medical abortions to women in Northern Ireland. She was previously a leader in the Progressive Unionist Party who were linked to the Ulster Volunteer Force, terrorists who carried out some of the most brutal killings in the region during the 30-year conflict, and who were also believed to be responsible for the Dublin-Monaghan bombings.
"Dawn Purvis is simply using this complaint to try to shut down opposition to Marie Stopes, who make millions from killing unborn babies every year as a major player in the abortion industry," she added.
Ms Uí Bhriain said she found the statements made by the judge 'extraordinary' and 'deeply troubling'.
"I would question what motivations are at play here to be honest," she said. "This is a judge who has openly admitted to having a real issue with any pro-life presence outside the abortion clinic saying that he did 'not feel it's appropriate for anyone to be stopped outside this clinic in any form, shape or fashion'.
"He appears to believe he can suspend the civil and human rights of any activist who wishes to counsel women and that's a decision that could have very troubling implications not just for pro-life activists but for anyone who wants to make a public witness," she said.
Youth Defence spokeswoman, Clare Molloy, said that the truth was that pro-life people had been assaulted, insulted and now falsely accused for simply reaching out to mothers and unborn children at the Marie Stopes abortion clinic.
"Bernadette's lawyer has pointed out that this court case was a ploy to deter Precious Life and to curtail their rights under Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the European Convention, but they will not be silenced and we stand with Bernadette Smyth," said the Youth Defence spokeswoman.
She said that Marie Stopes had singled out Ms Smyth for legal harassment because they knew she was widely admired by pro-life people throughout the country, and Precious Life was leading opposition to extending abortion into Northern Ireland.
The court heard that Dawn Purvis always initiated contact with Bernadette, and that there had been no bad language, no attempts to follow Purvis, no calls or emails to Purvis, from Bernadette. This ruling reeks of political motivation," she said.
She called on pro-life people across the country to stand with Bernadette Smyth and in defence of life until the ruling had been overturned.