On Saturday a police officer assaulted Bernatte Smyth, the head of Ireland's leading pro-life group Precious Life, for refusing to remove an "offensive" pro-life display. She will be petitioning a charge against him for "grievous bodily harm" inflicted during the attack.
Smyth described the incident to LifeSitenews.com, saying that a member of the community contacted the police because she was disturbed by abortion pictures in a public Precious Life display. Constable Peter Olphert of the Coleraine police department refused to communicate or compromise with Smyth even when she told him that the pro-lifers were perfectly within their rights to show the signs. He grabbed the board and started dragging it with Smyth partly sandwiched inside. Her arm was jammed and badly bruised.
Smyth said that after she informed the officer that she would be making a formal complaint about his conduct, he grabbed her and arrested her. She was then taken by van to the police station where her injuries were looked over by a doctor.
Smyth was charged with "obstruction" and "provocative conduct." She noted, however, that the only thing that provoked the incident was the abortion picture itself. The police officer also falsely claimed that she did not give him her name and address which was one of the first things she did after the incident.
Precious Life has been setting up the pro-life displays within different towns for ten years. They give street information sessions, collect petitions against abortions, show pictures of the aftermath of abortion and display 3-D fetal models. In the past, police have investigated such displays, and the public prosecution service ruled that it was legal.
People who witnessed the event were extremely shocked, and various individuals have offered to give official testimony on her behalf. Smyth, who is presently on bail until August 6, is confident that the charges will not stand in a court and will be petitioning a charge against the constable.
Smyth noted, "We have to continue with this battle, because if we don't, no one else will and more babies will die. We are praying that this case will backfire on the police and they will realize that we are legal."
The media has maintained a strict silence concerning the event which comes at an extremely opportune time. At present, pro-choice Liberal Democrat and member of the British Medical Association (BMA), Dr. Evan Harris, is pushing for an extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to extend to Northern Ireland. According to the Guardian Unlimited, Harris recently stated that it was "disgraceful" that parliament limits abortion in Northern Ireland. He said, "It's time that situation changed. There must be a vote in parliament."
Smyth hopes, "that justice will be done." She said, "We have to deal with this so that pro-life groups are protected and our rights and freedom of speech are upheld."