Senator Ronan Mullen speaking in the Seanad earlier on the issue of Direct Provision:
The treatment of women in the system is deplorable. There are several male-only reception centres in the State. But there are none which provide solely for women. Many women who seek asylum in the State are fleeing the most gruesome and most unimaginable conditions sometimes involving sexual abuse or rape. And for these victims to be placed in a system where there’s an underlying fear perhaps in some cases of a recurrence of abuse is really shocking.
Protests outside the Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast in 2012
An abortion clinic in Belfast has been training volunteers to escort clients past anti-abortion protesters. Escorts trained in the use of body-worn cameras have been accompanying clients of the Marie Stopes clinic to and from its city centre building.
A Northern Ireland Assembly member has said the measure is an over-reaction to the protests. There have been regular protests since the clinic opened in Great Victoria Street in 2012.
Clinic director Dawn Purvis said the protests were having an effect on clients, and that the clinic had to respond. “The women that come to us are very upset and very frightened by the behaviour of the protesters,” she said. “Our volunteers have been through a vetting scheme and a very intense training course in de-escalation methods and how to deal with conflict.”
The escorts have also been trained in additional security measures including body-worn CCTV cameras and distress calls.
However, DUP MLA Jim Wells supports the protests outside the clinic and said they are important and peaceful. “I have spoken to some of the protesters and they do try to talk to women and persuade them not to have an abortion, but certainly watching what goes on, I don’t see anything that would cause me concern.” He said the clinic has gone “over the top” by introducing the escort scheme and additional security measures.
Meanwhile, an harassment case against Precious Life founder Bernie Smyth is due to resume on Tuesday next.
An American anti-abortion healthcare provider is planning to open a clinic in Belfast, the BBC has learned. Stanton Healthcare aims to have a clinic operating in the city centre by early 2015.
Representatives from Stanton Healthcare recently visited Belfast, and the BBC understands that they have identified premises on Great Victoria Street in the city as a site for the clinic. The facility would therefore be close to Belfast’s Marie Stopes clinic, which has been open since 2012.
The BBC understands that Stanton Healthcare plans to offer pregnancy counselling and also medical facilities like ultrasound scans. The firm has claimed that over 90% of what they describe as “abortion-vulnerable women” who have ultrasound scans at their Boise clinic choose to give birth.
However, its staff are working closely with the Northern Ireland-based anti-abortion organisation, Precious Life. Bernadette Smyth from Precious Life welcomed Stanton Healthcare’s plans. “We would hope that women in crisis pregnancy would be given free ultrasound, free pregnancy tests and support,” she told BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster programme. “We want to provide a better service that’s not available here.”
On last night’s Tonight with Ger Colleran, Ger was joined by Caroline Simons (Pro Life Campaign), Dr Máire Nesta Nic Ghearailt (Every Life Counts), Dr Peter Boylan (National Maternity Hospital Holles St) and Ruth Bowie (TFMR) to discuss abortion in cases of rape, incest and terminations for medical reasons (TFMR).
Ger Colleran: “You’re advocating that the medical or the legal prohibition on termination of such pregnancies [fatal foetal abnormalities] continue?”
Caroline Simons: “I’m advocating that the best position in the interests of women and in the interests of unborn babies is that there be a right to life for both and that the mother inevitably comes first because you cannot fail to look after a mother, without losing a baby as well.”
A protestor at the Our Bodies; Our Right Rally to Repeal the 8th in Dublin last Saturday
“Because they are in direct touch with the electorate Irish politicians know this and that is why they repeatedly say there is no appetite for another referendum. Politicians are understandably reluctant to spend even more time and energy on constitutional proposals that have no real prospect of being passed or lawmaking that would do little to alter the plight of those in crisis pregnancies in the absence of constitutional change. Many might wish it otherwise but that is the political reality.”