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Representatives from anti abortion groups, Precious Life and Centre for Bioethical Reform were tackled yesterday outside the John Mitchel Place Clinic, by counter protest group Supporting Women Newry, who claimed the protesters were intimidating women attending the Clinic.

Explaining their reason for countering the Precious Life and Centre for Bioethical Reform protest, Kerrie Havern from Supporting Women Newry said "We are here to protect the rights of the women of Newry to access the number of services within John Mitchel Place. Services include dental, speech therapy, community paediatrics, counselling for women who have suffered miscarriages, counselling for women who have suffered domestic abuse.

"These women are having to pass placards with their children to get services and their children are asking why they're going in there. These women are brave enough to go and look for help to deal with the trauma and then being re-traumatised by these people holding pictures of babies in wombs.

Anti abortion protestors from Centre for Bioethical Reform at the John Mitchel Clinic. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Anti abortion protestors from Centre for Bioethical Reform at the John Mitchel Clinic. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

"A lady today tried to access counselling, she suffered a miscarriage and she told these people it was re-traumatising her, every week she has to come down here for counselling to deal with the death of her baby and they ignored her."

Ms Havern added "The PSNI have told us that because we were from different households we are breaking Covid restrictions. Our response to that was to disperse because we are not here in protest. We are here to demonstrate that this is not fair"

Anti abortion protestors have been protesting in the area for several weeks now and a spokesman (who didn't wish to be named) from Centre for Bioethical Reform  said "We are essentially here as an Evangelical Christian Witness to try and stop children being killed and hoping that our witness will speak to people and their conscience that they will not take the life of a child

"We want our liberty to be preserved here. We feel we have been harassed today in Newry."

The Spokesman added "We have an open air witness in Newry. We reach out everywhere. We go everywhere. We have been to a whole lot of towns all over Northern Ireland before the lockdown. We were in Newry in October at the Ulster Bank and we had an open air there. We had Ministers from different Churches taking part.

"We united with Precious Life and its campaigning on the killing of children that's going on here every Monday."

Supporting Women representatives at the John Mitchel Clinic. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Supporting Women representatives at the John Mitchel Clinic. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Cara Malone from Supporting Women Newry added "This is not a Pro Life or a Pro Choice argument. This is a stop the intimidation demand.

"Whilst we defend anyones right to protest. We defend your right to protest, but what we do not defend is the intimidation of women in Newry. Take your protest to the powers that be."

Speaking in relation to the organised protests at the Clinic MLA Liz Kimmins said in a statement “It is unacceptable that women accessing a health clinic have had to face down protesters on their way to appointments.

"This clinic provides a range of services, including support for miscarriage and stillbirth, and women and healthcare staff are having to run a gauntlet when accessing the site."

Ms Kimmins continued “No one should have to face harassment and intimidation especially women who may be dealing with difficult circumstances.

“A year after abortion provision became legal it is disgraceful that the UUP Health Minister has failed to commission and fund these health services leaving Trusts to pick up the slack.

“The Minister should act immediately and put in place the services that have been legislated for.”

Newry.ie asked the Southern Trust if they wished to comment on the protests and in a reply a spokesperson said that staff and anyone using the services at John Mitchel Place should feel safe to attend without threat or fear.

The Spokesperson said “In line with The Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020, the Southern Trust like all other Trusts across the region, offers Early Medical Abortion services.

“The service is available for women less than 10 weeks pregnant, offering support, advice, counselling and medical termination where considered appropriate within the regulations.

“Staff and anyone using the wide range of services at John Mitchel Place, should feel safe to attend without threat or fear.

“It is still vital at this time, as we continue to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, that everyone follows Executive guidance to stay at home. We appeal in the interest of everyone’s safety - please do not come to our facilities unless absolutely necessary."

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