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Defending life
from conception to natural death


SPUC condemns SDLP for attack on free speech and unborn babies

7 April 2017


Pro-life campaigners have condemned the SDLP for “a grotesque attack on free speech and unborn babies” after suspending three Belfast councillors for failing to support a motion which alleged women were being harassed outside abortion advice clinics.

The trio were axed by the SDLP 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.

Those banned were SDLP group leader Pat Convery, deputy group leader Kate Mullan and Declan Boyle.

The decision to suspend them indefinitely has been attacked by Liam Gibson, Northern Ireland Development Officer of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. He said:

"This is a twin-edged assault on fundamental human rights.

"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."

He added:

"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.

"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 hesitate to condemn such behaviour.

"They politely approach and speak with individuals, offer them caring advice and leaflets which give valuable information about alternatives to abortion. Some may say prayers or recite the rosary. But since when has that been considered as breaking the law? Only the most wickedly misguided or those with a commercial interest in making money from the death of unborn babies could construe quiet prayer as an act of harassment."

MSI opened its Belfast facility in 2012 as a private abortion centre. It has had a pro-life presence outside its doors since that time.

Mr Gibson stated:

"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."

The vote took place at Monday’s monthly council meeting at Belfast City Hall.

The motion, which called for councillors to condemn any such harassment across Northern Ireland, was proposed by the Green Party’s Georgina Milne.

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.

It is understood that SDLP councillors were told they could support the motion but should stress the party’s pro-life constitution. However, when the trio abstained the whip was withdrawn from them and they told they would be suspended indefinitely.

The Green motion condemned bids "to physically block access to facilities, verbal intimidation, and the filming and recording of staff and clients".

Mr Gibson said:

"This motion was built on a series of unfounded rumours and unsubstantiated allegations.

"It seems the bulk of the false claims have emanated from MSI, according to the Green councillor behind the proposal."

The Green Party plans to table a private members’ Bill in the Stormont Assembly to restrict pro-life outreach by creating “bubble zones” at abortion facilities.

Mr Gibson said:

"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."

He continued:

"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.

"MSI was also condemned for throwing the bodies of aborted babies into open bins."

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.

Mr Gibson said:

"There have been scandalous revelations alleging that MSI has been approving thousands of abortions in Britain without meeting women, with some discussions of the reason for the abortion lasting as little as 22 seconds.

"It has been reported that the organisation has been signing off abortions following short telephone conversations, without the woman seeing the two doctors who authorise the abortion.

"Undercover reporters also allege that following a telephone consultation, the official note of the woman’s reason for having the abortion was completely different from what she had said on the phone.”

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