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Monday, October 11, 1999 Published at 09:01 GMT 10:01 UK

UK: Scotland

Church in abortion storm

Cardinal Winning set up the scheme at his base in Glasgow

The Catholic Church in Scotland has been criticised for paying for a 12-year-old girl to keep her baby.

BBC News' Alistair Jackson: Church accused of offering bribe
The venture was set up two years ago by Scotland's Cardinal, Thomas Winning, and was aimed at giving women financial support to provide an alternative to terminations.

The girl's father, who lives in England, contacted the scheme's leaders and asked for help.

Jane Roe, Campaign Manager of the Abortion Law Reform Association, said: "Young girls have a very rosy view of what a baby means and it is incredible that they cannot get the reality put clearly to them.

'Silly things'

"There is absolutely no chance that a girl of 12 or 13 can understand.

Jane Roe and Monsignor Tom Connelly debate the issue
"Of course a girl of 12 will be determined to have her child. Children of that age are also determined to do a lot of silly things.

"They should be helped to understand what this is going to mean for them for the rest of their lives.

"They are losing their childhood and the Catholic Church is putting religious principle before their welfare."

[ image: Cardinal Thomas Wiining: Pro-Life scheme supporter]
Cardinal Thomas Wiining: Pro-Life scheme supporter
It is understood the 12-year-old's parents are both unemployed and approached the organisers of the charity when they needed help to deal with the family crisis.

The mothers of about 200 babies have been offered support since the Pro-Life initiative was set up in 1997.

Church spokesman Monsignor Tom Connelly said: "It is sad that kids of that age are having babies, but there you are.

"The major concern is that the girl is not suffering in any way.

"The church offers real choice so the child in the womb does not suffer at all, irrespective of age or race or creed."

Help and money

Monsignor Connelly said the child's identity would not be revealed, and added she would be offered help and advice as well as money.

And Roseann Reddy, co-ordinator of the programme, said the girl was adamant she should keep the baby.

She added: "The parents wanted to support the girl but could not afford the baby clothes, and that is where we step in."

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