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.
Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland