Irish pro-life activist
On the face of it, 2013 was not a good year for the pro-life cause in Ireland and Northern Ireland: The former country introduced abortion into the statute books with the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, while the latter has seen the establishment of a Marie Stopes clinic in its Belfast capital undermine its commitment to the protection of unborn life.
It would take a tenacious and feisty activist to stay positive in such circumstances — but Bernadette Smyth fits that description perfectly. A mother of four and committed Catholic, Smyth founded the activist group Precious Life
in 1997 and has since helped make it Northern Ireland’s largest and most active pro-life organization.
Under Smyth’s continued leadership, Precious Life has capitalized on its political influence and dynamic grassroots base in 2013, popularizing the European Citizens’ Initiative “One of Us.” This program aims to protect the rights of the human embryo across European Union-member states, assisting with the March for Life in Dublin this July — which saw a turnout of 50,000 people — and continuing to fight to protect the legal protections afforded to unborn children in Northern Ireland. While Precious Life has generated negative headlines with their use of controversial graphic imagery, Smyth staunchly defends the use of such tactics, having herself been converted to the pro-life cause after viewing an image of an aborted fetus. She also is refreshingly open about the influence of her faith on her work, putting it at the very heart of what she does. Having been a witness for life in testing circumstances throughout the past year, Bernadette Smyth is one to watch as the pro-life struggle in Ireland and Northern Ireland grows yet more intense.
Megan Hodder writes from England.