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Political editor Brian Taylor reports
"The minister said she defended the right to free expression"
 real 28k

Health Minister Susan Deacon
"One of the major social problems we face is teenage pregnancy"
 real 28k

Thursday, 2 December, 1999, 18:04 GMT
'Stalin' jibe over abortions warning
Anti-abortion poster The anti-abortion campaign has become more extreme

Pro-life campaigners have reacted sharply to the "back off" warning issued by Scottish Health Minister Susan Deacon over abortion protests.

Her promise to use criminal legislation follows the establishment of Precious Life Scotland, which has said it is prepared to target individual clinics and staff.

Susan Deacon Susan Deacon: "Other people have rights"
"What I am saying to these extremists is that it's time for them to back off from the clinics, from the support services that provide that advice and support," said Ms Deacon.

"There are those who will disagree with this strategy. I recognise that people hold very strong and deeply-held views.

"I will defend to the end the right of these groups to hold their own views and to promote them. However, I also believe that in an equal and modern Scotland other people have rights."

'Very worrying development'

But Precious Life spokesman Jim Dowson responded: "This is a very worrying development and I think Josef Stalin, himself a bed-fellow and socialist, would be very proud of Ms Deacon.

"It's the pro-life lobby at the moment, next year who is it going to be?

"It's a clear message from the state that they will not tolerate any dissent at all."

Jim Dowson Jim Dowson: "Stalin would be proud"
Last month, Precious Life used pictures of aborted foetuses to promote its message. It forced the closure for a day of a Brook Advisory Clinic in Edinburgh.

At the time, Mr Dowson said he "utterly condemned" violence and added the aim of the campaign was to re-educate the people of Scotland.

The Brook Advisory organisation, which helps young pregnant women, insists the group employs "intimidating tactics and a policy of personal harassment".

Precious Life, which claims to have 60 members already in Scotland, is looking to establish branches in the main towns across the country.

Teenage abortions

In an address to the Public Health Medicine in Edinburgh, Ms Deacon said she believed the activists were in danger of driving vulnerable young people away from much needed help.


The targeted provision of condoms and pills is not an evil in our society
Susan Deacon
"The facts are that more than 9,000 teenage girls in Scotland became pregnant last year," she said. "Over 4,000 of them had abortions."

She warned that ministers would look to the police to use laws such as the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

Condoms Condoms "are not evil", Ms Deacon says
"It's my job to make sure that young people get the support and services that they need and that the health care workers who provide these services can do so safely and securely," she said.

On sexual health policy, she said: "I want to see more, new, convenient facilities such as those pioneered by Greater Glasgow Health Board at Boots in Glasgow and the Brook Advisory Clinic to offer modern, effective ways of delivering sexual advice and targeted contraception in settings which attract young people.

"The targeted provision of condoms and pills is not an evil in our society - neither are they a cure for our teenage sexual problems. But they are part of that solution.

Medics welcome comments

The British Medical Association in Scotland has supported Ms Deacon's stance.

Scottish Council chairman Dr John Garner said: "Doctors respect the right of people to demonstrate in support of their views, however it is not acceptable to harass or intimidate clinicians and patients.

"We welcome the Scottish Executive's pledge to support the use of the full force of the law to prevent these extremists dragging us down the path to confrontation and violence.

"The American experience teaches us that this path leads only to tragedy."

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See also:
02 Dec 99 |  Scotland
Cardinal condemns sex clinics call
27 Oct 99 |  Scotland
Anger as abortion groups clash
24 Oct 99 |  Scotland
Opposition to abortion clinic plans
04 Oct 99 |  Scotland
Anti-abortionists poised for Scottish campaign
20 Nov 99 |  Scotland
Pro-lifers plan shock launch

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