Foyle Election candidate says sexual health comments were ‘taken out of context’

Dr Anne Mc Closkey.
Dr Anne Mc Closkey.

A doctor who is an Independent candidate for the upcoming Northern Ireland Assembly election in Foyle has told the ‘Journal’ that comments attributed regarding the sexual well-being of women in Derry have been taken out of context.

General Practitioner, Dr Anne McCloskey who this morning handed in her nomination papers for the election in May, was a panel member at a political hustings event held at the offices of the Northern Ireland Council for Ethic Minorities (NICEM) in the city.

Other panellists included People Before Profit candidate Eamonn McCann, the Ulster Unionist Party’s Julia Kee, outgoing SDLP MLA Gerard Diver and Sinn Fein’s outgoing spokesperson on Health, Maeve McLaughlin.

Dr McCloskey said the issue of abortion came up during the panel discussion with regard to a court case in recent days in Northern Ireland where a woman who purchased pills online in order to terminate her pregnancy was given a suspended sentence.

Comments attributed to Dr McCloskey on social media claimed she said ‘that women’s liberation has done women in this city a disservice. They have become receptacles for men’s semen and they feel they can get rid of it when they want’.

However, speaking to the ‘Journal’ the GP said that her comments were taken out of context.

“What I meant was that women’s liberation has brought us so far. Women are not at times in charge of their sexual health often resulting in crisis pregnancies of which they are not in control.

“I attribute this to a lack of sex education and the availability of services. I feel that women were left behind by the sexual revolution. They are disempowered and some feel that they have to make themselves sexually available in order to be accepted. I speak to women about this in surgery constantly.

Referring the ‘Journal’ to a statement on her campaign Facebook page, Dr McCloskey said that she had already made her views on abortion public.

Sections of that statement said: “I’m pro-choice, but I’m against abortion.

“I am opposed to the introduction of abortion here. Even formerly enthusiastic supporters of the 1967 act in England did not anticipate the current situation where de facto abortion on demand terminates some 200,000 pregnancies annually, over 95% for non-medical reasons. It is important to be clear that throughout Ireland, where it is deemed medically necessary to end the life of the unborn child in order to preserve the mother’s life, as for example in the case of an ectopic pregnancy or gynaecological malignancy, the law is quite clear that such action is legal and appropriate. These procedures are routine in all of our hospitals.

“Choice is good, choice is healthy, and choice can offer us freedom. Choice involves education, knowledge, empowerment, shared responsibility, provision of services, autonomy. Choices can change our all our lives, for good or ill. I believe that when a woman is pregnant, then to end that other life within, is not a choice which offers her, her child or society a good outcome. Protection of the defenceless should be fundamental to our shared humanity.”

The incident has however drawn heavy criticism from other panel members at the hustings event.

People Before Profit candidate Eamonn McCann told the ‘Journal’: “No matter in what context these comments were made, they were disgraceful.”

And, Sinn Fein candidate, Maeve McLaughlin said: “The comments made by Dr. McCloskey at a hustings event in the city last night are deplorable and a gross insult to all women. Dr.McCloskey was asked to comment on the issue of women’s liberation which she claimed had done a great disservice to women in this city. It’s an ironic position for someone who, as a successful doctor, has broken through the gender barriers which still exist in many aspects of life.”

The SDLP’s Gerard Diver commented: “I was incredibly shocked at what she said. Obviously I disagree entirely. I found it entirely inappropriate and offensive.”

Dr McCloskey also told the ‘Journal’: “This issue is never black and white and it is a very emotive one. We will never have consenus on it. But is not an issue for the law or the police.

“I don’t want this to overshadow my campaign which is about deprivation and welfare reform. However, we cannot move away from this issue. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not anti-women. This is not about apportioning blame or denigrating women. It’s about how mean treat women, how they respect them. Abortion is about men and women, relationships and family.

“If young girls come to me looking for the morning after pill then they get it, but I talk to them and make sure that it’s their decision.”