Adonis Diaries

Client escort outside a Belfast abortion clinic

Posted on: March 6, 2015



Client escort outside a Belfast abortion clinic

I am sick of women in Northern Ireland being treated as second-class citizens.

This is why I volunteer as a client escort for women attending the Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast.

Northern Ireland has the harshest criminal penalty for abortion anywhere in Europe – life imprisonment both for the woman and for anyone assisting her.

That sentence even applies in cases where the pregnancy results from rape or incest, or in cases of fatal foetal impairment.

The only exception is a medical abortion – an alternative to surgical abortion where you take two sets of pills to end an early pregnancy.

 posted this this March 2, 2015

I’m a client escort outside a Belfast abortion clinic – here’s why I do it

Just over two years ago Marie Stopes opened the clinic in Belfast and offered women access to medical abortions up to nine weeks into a pregnancy.

This shocked the majority of Northern Ireland’s population as it was widely believed that abortion was illegal under any circumstances.

By opening its doors, Marie Stopes single-handedly ended the public lie that women had been allowed to believe here since 1861.

Protests outside an abortion clinic in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Protesters outside an abortion clinic in Belfast, Northern Ireland. ‘When booking an appointment with the clinic all clients are offered an escort, but few accept … most request an escort to leave again.’ Photograph: Stephen Barnes/Demotix/Corbis

Since opening, anti-abortion protesters are camped outside the building. They bring with them huge posters showing graphic images of what they claim are an aborted foetus.

These include pictures of a beheaded foetus and slogans saying that “Abortion won’t un-rape her”. They ask the public to sign their petition and approach any woman of child-bearing age who is entering the nine-storey building. They say this is a prayer vigil.

When booking an appointment with the clinic all clients are offered our escort service, but few accept.

Many then arrive at the clinic deeply distressed and shocked at the experience of having to go past the protesters. Some arrive with leaflets in hand; none are sure if they have been recorded or photographed on their way in.

Most clients request an escort to leave again.

As escorts we work in pairs.

One wears a body camera and the other carries a walkie-talkie with a panic alarm. We have all been put through intensive certified training before taking on this role.

We do not ask a client’s name or why they are visiting the clinic: this is none of our business, they are paying for private and confidential healthcare – we respect this.

We discuss between ourselves where the client needs to go and explain to them how we will best get there. We stay with each woman until she feels safe and secure enough to continue without us.

The clinic building is glass-fronted and to leave we must walk up a corridor. There is usually a man in excess of 6ft standing with his feet planted and arms folded across his chest in a very intimidating manner who just stares.

Female protesters are right at the door ready with leaflets and slogans such as “You are now the mother of a dead baby”, “These women have blood on their hands”, “If you have taken anything we will report you to the police”, “We have named your dead baby”, and “Don’t flush your baby down the toilet”.

We are also followed by men with camcorders or, more recently, also wearing body cameras.

Women have been shouted at that they are being recorded for television or that the footage will be uploaded to social media. Plastic foetus dolls are thrust into our faces.

Sometimes strangers in the street will try and offer us help, others shout in our faces that we are a disgrace.

I have been sent messages on social media from unknown women to tell me they pray for my soul, and have been named online as a murderer of boys and girls.

Most clients ask: “Why are they doing this?” All are highly distressed and emotionally upset; some are fearful and concerned for their safety.

In any other circumstance our political leaders are quick to unite and condemn anti social behaviour at all levels. In this case they seem content to turn a blind eye.

Would there be this deafening silence from our legislators if I chose to stand outside their office and hold a ‘prayer vigil’?

If I shamed every constituent going in to seek advice for them? I don’t think so.

Until the protesters, who call themselves street councillors, stop, I will continue as an escort.

No matter how bad it gets for us, the impact on the clients is much worse.


2 Responses to "Client escort outside a Belfast abortion clinic"

Please remove this photograph. I own copyright on it, and you have not purchased a licence to use. Failure to remove it will result in me taking legal action.

Stephen Barnes.

Your photo sucks. Stuff your licence

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March 2015

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