Legal threat over pro-life protest plan
A BRITISH anti-abortion group faces legal action from one of its US counterparts in a row over the authenticity of images of dismembered foetuses to be used in its biggest-ever protest campaign.
The Scots-based UK Life League yesterday published pictures which it claims are the first images of British abortions. It said they were recovered by its activists from the waste bins of two private clinics.
The group plans to distribute 1.5 million leaflets nationwide, starting with houses near the clinics. They depict around a dozen different images of abortions at 10- 24 weeks’ gestation.
One shows a 24-week baby fighting for life in an incubator next to the body of a "British" baby aborted at 24 weeks’ gestation, with the slogan: "The insanity of choice". Another highlights the alleged link between abortion and breast cancer while a third shows a foetus next to a 1 coin.
But last night, US pro-life group, the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR), said all but one of the images portrayed as UK abortions had been used in its US campaign and had been bought by the UK Life League from its US website.
The UK Life League is fronted by Cumbernauld-based Jim Dowson, who has a conviction for possessing an offensive weapon.
Gregg Cunningham, the CBR’s director, described Mr Dowson’s claims as "sensationalist, self-aggrandising and unhelpful". He warned there were a "variety of legal remedies" he would take to prevent the UK Life League from making false claims about the photographs if it did not withdraw the campaign.
Mr Cunningham said: "We have hundreds of photographs taken from abortion clinics and our policy is that we never disclose which clinics we have access to in order to protect the people who do this.
"Mr Dowson has no way of knowing where the images were taken. It troubles me that he would assert that these photographs were taken at any specific abortion facility because even if it were true, it would place the employees in an unnecessarily difficult position.
"Some of the darker possibilities of Mr Dowson’s motives here are quite troubling."
Mr Cunningham, a former lawyer, plans to confront Mr Dowson to "understand what’s going on".
He added: "He will not be allowed to use our images. If he ignores this and continues to use them, I could take legal action. It is important to us that people believe our photographs are authentic."
The UK Life League champions the controversial policy of displaying graphic images of aborted foetuses outside family planning clinics in an attempt to discourage terminations.
Mr Dowson approached The Scotsman, claiming he had spent 25,000 gathering and printing the images.
He alleged they were taken by a team of campaigners who had infiltrated two private clinics, the Calthorpe, in Birmingham, and the Marie Stopes centre in Leeds.
He said: "Between March and September last year, our people gained access to the waste of these clinics. We have done so in the private abortion clinics in England and our next plan is to do it in Scotland. One of our first targets will be leafleting people who live near these facilities."
When challenged by The Scotsman, Mr Dowson was unable to provide any proof the foetuses were aborted at the British clinics. Both facilities have insisted there would be no opportunity for Mr Dowson’s group to access their waste.
Tracey Allsopp, manager of the Calthorpe Clinic, said: "This sort of thing would not be possible. Our foetal waste is under lock and key and only comes out when it is handed over for incineration."
Emma Hall, spokeswoman for campaign group Voice for Choice, said: "Groups like this can go to these lengths and using pictures of abortions is not a new approach. It is used to frighten women who would access abortions."
Last year, the Advertising Standards Agency upheld four complaints against the UK Life League over two "misleading" adverts about the morning-after pill and legality of late abortions placed in religious newspapers in England.
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