A new anti-abortion campaign has been launched in Scotland to fight moves which it claims could see terminations legalised “up until the point of birth” when responsibility for the matter is handed to Holyrood.
The coalition, called Don’t Stop a Beating Heart, has been formed amid concerns over what it calls a “clamour” to extend the current 24-week time limit which the group says is already too liberal.
Holyrood will take control of the issue later this year and although First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the current time limit won’t be changed, her predecessor Alex Salmond and former health secretary Alex Neil were in favour of tightening the limit.
The head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, is among those backing the new campaign.
He said: “I wholeheartedly support the aims of the Don’t Stop a Beating Heart campaign to defend and protect unborn human life and to call legislators not to further extend abortion time limits.”
Campaign co-ordinator John Deighan said: “The rights of the unborn child are facing new threats with the impending devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament from Westminster.
“Already, well in advance of the transfer of legislative authority, we are hearing a clamour for further extension of the existing excessively liberal law. This could see abortion legalised from the existing 24-week limit, in most cases, up until the point of birth.
“In response to these deeply disconcerting demands, pro-life supporters from different backgrounds, people of faith and none, in addition to concerned organisations and individuals have decided that we must stand together in the face of this onslaught.”
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) Scotland, which Deighan also heads, has secured the endorsement of religious and social care groups and will co-ordinate the activities of supporters.
Holyrood will be handed power over abortion law as part of the Scotland Bill.
However, Ann Henderson, of the Scottish branch of pro-choice group Abortion Rights, said: “This coalition [Don’t Stop a Beating Heart] speaks for those who do not actually support women’s access to safe, legal abortion services in Scotland. It is nothing to do with a debate about time limits, and is out of step with the majority of public opinion.
“We do not want to see a return to the days of untold harm to women seeking backstreet abortions prior to the 1967 Abortion Act.
“Chipping away at aspects of that legal framework is a tactic in a campaign to remove legalised abortion services, as we can see from the tactics of anti-abortionists in the US.”
Among Don’t Stop a Beating Heart’s core claims are that abortion “damages women and stops a beating heart” and there is “always a better solution” than termination.