Belfast councillors suspended for not backing Marie Stopes motion
7 April 2017
The motion was voted on at Monday's monthly council meeting at Belfast City Hall.
The SLDP has suspended three Belfast councillors for failing to support a motion which alleged women were being harassed outside abortion advice clinics.
SDLP group leader Pat Convery, deputy group leader Kate Mullan and Declan Boyle were suspended indefinitely by the party for refusing to follow the party line and back calls to end anti-abortion campaigners approaching women as they visited the Marie Stopes International abortion facility in the city centre.
Attack on free speech
In a press statement, Liam Gibson, SPUC's Northern Ireland development officer, condemned the decision as a "twin-edged assault on fundamental human rights", saying: "Firstly, it is a grotesque attack on freedom of speech, and the SDLP leadership was foolish not to recognise that. However, the suspension of three councillors who could not in conscience back a motion which promoted abortion as a form of healthcare and demanded access to abortion facilities is outrageous. Abortion is not healthcare and has no medical benefits. It is a lethal act of violence directed at unborn babies who are being killed on an industrial scale by clinics such as these all over the world."
"Gauntlet of intimidation"
The motion, which called for councillors to condemn any such harassment across Northern Ireland, was proposed by the Green Party's Georgina Milne and voted on at Monday's monthly council meeting at Belfast City Hall.
She said she had been contacted by reproductive clinics who had made claims that they were concerned that people using their services were allegedly being forced to "run a gauntlet of intimidation and harassment" as they entered their centres. The Green motion condemned bids "to physically block access to facilities, verbal intimidation, and the filming and recording of staff and clients".
However, Mr Gibson said that the motion was built on a series of unfounded rumours and unsubstantiated allegations, with the information appearing to come only from Marie Stopes.
"Abortion is presumptively illegal in Northern Ireland and pro-life counsellors on the streets outside Marie Stopes are acting perfectly within the law as they seek to continue to uphold the right to life of unborn children," he explained.
"They do not involve themselves in harassment, intimidation, acts of harassment or any other behaviour which could be construed as challenging the law. We would not hestitate to condemn such action.They politely approach and speak with individuals, offer them caring advice and leaflets which give valuable information about alternatives to abortion."
Moreover, Mr Gibson said, "Escorts for the centre’s clients wear body cameras and the entrance is covered by security cameras. Yet no video evidence has ever been produced to backup claims of abuse, aggression, obstruction or intimidation by the pro-life people praying and handing out flyers."
Protest the suspension
This news could have far-reaching implications, Mr Gibson suggested. "The demonization of pro-lifers praying and handing out flyers at MSI in Belfast is the first step towards criminalising them. SPUC is calling on pro-life voters to contact the SDLP headquarters to protest against the suspension of the three councillors who would not support a motion promoting the interests of a commercial abortion provider with a record of illegality and disregard for the safety of women and the lives of their unborn children."
Disgraced Marie Stopes
"The people of Northern Ireland should be aware that within recent months this organisation, one of the UK's biggest abortion providers was forced to suspend abortions after it was blasted by the Care Quality Commission in a report for putting women at risk by failing to adequately train staff and neglecting to obtain proper consent from patients.
SPUC is campaigning to have Marie Stopes stripped of its abortion licence in the UK in the light of this and other recent scandals and in the wake of a probe which has lifted the lid on the nation’s shameful abortion industry.
News in brief: