A leading Scottish tycoon is under pressure after his charity made a donation to a group that runs a controversial course on "healing" women who have had an abortion.
SNP donor Sir Brian Souter's charitable trust funded a pregnancy advice centre specialising in "post-abortion syndrome", a theory linking terminations to psychological problems - which is disputed by the medical establishment.
The course offered to women includes a focus on "accountability", "forgiveness" and also mentions "repentance". Sexual-health services provider Brook estimated last year that more than 100 crisis pregnancy centres with a Christian ethos operated around the UK.
Loading article content
The Choices centre in Bishop's Stortford, just north of London, says it helps men and women make "informed choices" on unplanned pregnancies and offers advice on the "after-affects" of an abortion.
According to its Facebook site, it received an undisclosed sum in 2013 from the Souter Charitable Trust (SCT), the personal charity of Stagecoach bus tycoon Souter and his wife Betty. A Christian who funded a campaign in 2000 against gay rights, Souter has donated more than £2.5 million to the SNP since 2007. He received a knighthood after being nominated by the SNP Government.
The SCT's donation to Choices, itself a charity, is under scrutiny due to the centre providing a service to treat "post-abortion syndrome", or PAS. This allegedly relates to the post-traumatic stress women feel after a termination. However, a spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said: "It is not classified as a medical condition."
And a spokeswoman for the Royal College of Psychiatrists said PAS was not in the manuals used to diagnose psychiatric disorders.
She also alerted the Sunday Herald to a statement by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges on a review of mental health outcomes and abortion. It stated: "Having an abortion does not increase the risk of mental health problems. The best current evidence suggests that it makes no difference to a woman's mental health whether she chooses to have an abortion or to continue with the pregnancy."
Choices offers a 10-step "recovery" programme, which includes "moving out of denial", "guilt and shame" and "forgiveness". According to reports, the course's manual also states: "Part of the healing journey to post-abortion recovery involves repentance."
Brook produced a dossier on crisis pregnancy centres last year after doing a "mystery shopper" investigation. It found two centres had falsely linked abortion to an increased risk of breast cancer, with some service providers also claiming terminations caused infertility. In its report, Brook dismissed PAS as a "bogus medical disorder which is unrecognised by any medical body".
Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: "To promote the idea of a non-existent syndrome appears utterly unethical. I'm surprised that an organisation which does so can claim charitable status. This is about as scientific as 'gay conversion therapy', Aids denial or faith healing."
An SCT spokesman said: "We are delighted to record that in the year up to June 2014 we gave £9.9m to 1258 charities and worthwhile causes." Choices did not respond to requests for comment.