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Tuesday, October 5, 1999 Published at 08:02 GMT 09:02 UK

UK: Scotland

Anti-abortionists poised for Scottish campaign

A hard-hitting posters used in the Northern Ireland campaign

A militant new anti-abortion group is planning a series of high-profile demonstrations across Scotland.

The activists say they will picket clinics which offer terminations and single out doctors who carry out the operation.

The BBC's Simon Willis: Precious Life is prepared to undertake relentless campaigning
The organisation called Precious Life Scotland told Newsnight Scotland it is non-violent.

But intense lobbying methods and graphic advertising campaigns employed by Precious Life in Northern Ireland have led to accusations of harassment and intimidation.

Earlier this summer, the group claimed as a victory the closure of the Ulster Pregnancy Advisory Association - the seventh such clinic to shut in Ireland in the last few years.

[ image: Jim Dowson: Prepared to go to jail]
Jim Dowson: Prepared to go to jail
Jim Dowson, the founder of Precious Life Scotland, insists he will not use violence.

But he does says he is prepared to break the law and go to prison in his bid to stop what he calls the "trade in human misery".

Mr Dowson has visited Belfast and Dublin to learn about the so-called "street tactics" which have been passed on by visiting American activists.

He tells Newsnight Scotland, which accompanied him to Belfast, that wars are not won on table tops or by mailing out letters.

He said: "I have no problem with the word militant. For too many years now we have sat around in church groups and coffee mornings, selling crochet cushions and tut tut tutting when the question of abortion comes up.

"I am afraid those days are gone."

"We will be picketing and targeting the main surgeries involved in this - not just their place of work.

Targeting clinics

"We will then be seeking out the places where they carry out these things - the abortion clinics and even their places of abode and their social activities - to bring to people's mind that this is indeed a trade in human misery."

[ image: Audrey Simpson: Warning to Scottish colleagues]
Audrey Simpson: Warning to Scottish colleagues
On the issue of violence, Mr Dowson said: "I think there are times when we must break the law. If you mean violence, or anything like that, no.

"We are absolutely not advocating violence in any shape or form.

"If you mean by breaking the law, showing graphic pictures and perhaps demonstrating outside clinics and outside homes of people who are involved in the abortion trade - yes."

And he said he was ready for the inevitable clashes between the group's members and those enforcing the law.

Family Planning Association workers in Northern Ireland have warned Scots medical workers to be on their guard against the tactics of Precious Life.

Audrey Simpson of the Northern Ireland FPA said: "I would say to people in Scotland beware - because there is an organisation going to arrive in Scotland that has those links and they need to start consulting with their own lawyers and their own police authorities."

The Catholic Church in Scotland has reacted with caution over reports that Precious Life will begin its direct campaigning within days.

It says it is against heavy-handed tactics being used by anti-abortion activists.

Church spokesman, Father Danny McLaughlan, says all human life must be respected.

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