ABORTION cannot be justified at any stage of foetal development. That is the clear cut, hardline conservative shared belief of the voices behind the Don't Stop A Beating Heart campaign. This coalition of religious groups launched with the claim that they were countering "proposals to extend abortion time limits when new powers are devolved to the Scottish Parliament". However, no such proposal has ever been made by the Scottish government - bringing into question the very purpose of the religious campaign.

The voices involved in Don’t Stop A Beating Heart, five of which give their views here, seem to have little interest in much nuanced debate, since they believe that abortion, even use of the morning after pill, is always wrong. Full stop.

Rosemary Goring: Anti-abortionists have no right to picket our hospitals 

In their vision of the world, abortion has no place, whether at 24 weeks, 20 weeks, 12 weeks or three days. The religious organisations behind the movement are united in their opposition to abortion, whether for a woman who has been raped, the victim of incest, a foetus diagnosed with severe disability, or anything other than the most severe threat to the mother's life. Even then, many of them question that as a 'justification'. One of the frontmen, John Deighan, for instance, says: "There is no evidence that abortion has ever saved one woman’s life and we’ve now had 8.2 million of them in the UK." His ultimate position is: "There is never any reason for an abortion."

Sister Roseann Reddy, co-founder of the Sisters Of The Gospel Of Life, a pregnancy crisis service set up by the late Cardinal Winning


I would like to see an end to all abortion. It’s wrong because it’s the taking of a human life and also it’s not the answer to the woman’s problems. What I would like to see is a law brought in saying you have to have informed consent before you go ahead with the procedure. For fifty years now we’ve been talking about abortion being a woman’s right to choose. But the big problem is that they don’t actually see what they’re choosing because they’re not actually given the facts about the development of the baby at the stage that they’re having the abortion, about what the abortion procedure is, or about alternative help that is available. For instance, I had an eye operation and beforehand I saw every single detail of what they were going to do, so that I could give my informed consent. If we’re saying people should have the right to choose, they should see the choice they are making. We shouldn’t describe the baby as a "product of conception". We shouldn’t talk about foetal matter. We use language to disguise what we mean. I’ve never heard anyone say, “Congratulations, when’s your embryo due?”

With smoking they will show you a pair of lungs on the back of a fag packet and say smoking is bad for you. Now I don’t particularly want it rammed home in that sort of way, but if we really believe in choice, then we have to give women a choice that is factual, a choice that is real.


Many people say to me, “I totally agree with you, I don’t believe in abortion on demand, however…” And that “however” is always rape. I always say, “Why are you against abortion in all these other circumstances?” The only reason you could be against abortion is because it’s the taking of a human life. It’s not because it’s a horrible operation. There are lots of horrible operations. So I would say regardless of how the child is conceived it’s not the answer.

If you look at how flippantly rape is taken in our society today, if you look at the number of rapes reported and the number prosecuted, I think part of that is because people think as long as the woman doesn’t conceive, or can get rid of the baby, that’s the problem solved. What we would say is that getting rid of the baby doesn’t get rid of the rape. I don’t think that abortion is the solution in rape. At the end of the day women when they’re pregnant know they’re having a baby, regardless of how it was conceived and for that baby suddenly not to be there is another loss, another bereavement. I certainly don’t think it’s helping us take rape as seriously as we should be.

Salah Beltagui, Director of Muslim Council of Scotland


We should respect life, and we should help life to continue whether it is fully 100% able or disabled in some way. If you see a person with disability, do you go and finish their life? We can’t have two different approaches and say that before birth we just get rid of them and then maybe after birth we have to look after them.

Discriminating against disabled people is not legal. If we give tests that say if a baby is going to be disabled, and discriminate against them and abort them, in a way that is like a capital punishment. Why did we stop, in many countries, having capital punishment? One reason is we recognised that if there is a mistake and there is no way to correct that mistake. The same could happen here. If you have some tests, there could be a mistake or things could change, and then abortion could mean we are getting rid of a life which could continue.

Life is life, all lives have to be held equal, otherwise we start going to areas that led to disaster in history, like when people have said that the life of a certain race is better than other races, or the life of a certain people is better. Life is equal for all of us.

We see people who are still very useful members of society and the world. We have Stephen Hawking, for example. He’s disabled in many ways, but he’s had a super mind and intellect. If someone is disabled we don’t just get rid of them. Some people with disabilities in one side of their bodies are still very useful members of society in other ways. And how many people are super physically but their mentality is really bad and they are not only not useful, but evil sometimes?


There is this idea around of the mother’s autonomy over her body, but that is not the most important thing. It’s not the body, but what is in the body, which is life, which we cannot measure, and we cannot measure how it will develop, so we should not make a capital decision on that.

John Deighan, chief executive of the Society for the Protection Of Unborn Children, Scotland


Rape, incest, disability, these are the hard cases. But our human rights instruments always start at the right to life. In the case of rape, a woman has gone through something terrible, a terribly traumatic event in her life, and abortion doesn’t undo that trauma. What we would argue is that abortion adds another trauma to the woman. She’s not going to forget that she’s raped, and there’s another life to be considered. We do not propose the death penalty for rapists or anyone involved in rape, but yet an innocent human life is to be ended on the basis that it is somehow going to help alleviate the problems of a woman who has been raped.

The same with incest. The thing about abortion for us is, factually there is a human life that exists and that human is either going to be allowed to live or have its life terminated. Now the circumstances in which it came into existence might be terribly wrong but ending that life doesn’t undo the wrong that has been done. The incest is not undone. The person still has to cope with dealing with that problem. It is typical of other crisis pregnancies, in that the woman is thinking, 'I wish this hadn’t happened'. It’s an extreme version of that. But there have been 8.2 million abortions in the UK in the fifty years, and how many have been on those bases? I don’t think many.


That prenatal screening has been used as a seek-and-destroy is a misuse of screening. If the reason for it were to prepare you for dealing with it, then that’s a different argument. But the success criterion seems to be if we can detect more and end more pregnancies with Down's syndrome then we’re doing a good thing. As a society we’ve made great strides with disability rights, and yet at the start of life we’re saying this is so terrible to have a disability actually we’re better killing you before birth.

My children help out at a club for adults with Down's Syndrome. When I collect them I go in and they’ll be people there from teenagers right up to fifty years old, they have happy lives, they give great joy to their families. And just now if they are diagnosed with Down's Syndrome before birth over 90 percent of their lives are terminated. I just think it’s so unjust.

Margaret Cuthill, Post Abortion Trauma counsellor at Abortion Recovery Care & Helpline (ARCH)


We’re not wired to abort our children. Under no circumstances is abortion okay: even for those women who have been raped. I really believe abortion touches a very primal place in a woman’s life, in a human’s life, because it’s a human issue. No one looks at the effect on women and their lives. Some women who abort suffer from Post Abortion Trauma [a kind of post traumatic stress disorder, disputed by many pro-choice activists]. I did myself. I have had two abortions. Back in 1987, I had just had my second abortion, and I was shocked to find that when I went back for a post-operative check a doctor said, “You’re pregnant”. They sent me for a scan. And that was when my denial was broken, because what I saw on the screen was a baby. I think I must have had two babies in two separate sacs and on that occasion only one had been aborted. I felt a lot of guilt.

It would be more honest if we acknowledged that grief is part of the process. Because women today are still being told what I was told in 1975: “It’s just cells you are getting rid of. You might feel low for a time, a bit sad, but you’ll get over that. You’re getting your life back.”


I am against most contraception. Because they can’t determine whether the majority of contraception is stopping you ovulating, or stopping the fertilised egg implanting in the womb. I would go for abstinence, the best contraceptive there is.

Gordon Macdonald, policy officer for Christian Action Research & Education


We believe as an organisation that life starts at conception so we would be opposed to abortion at any stage. Obviously we recognise the fact that we are not in that situation. In 1967 the abortion law was passed. It has been interpreted in a way which was never intended when it was passed. Probably 98% of abortions performed in the UK are technically illegal under the terms of the 1967 act, as it was intended. So in that sense we would like to see it rolled back. People talk about risk to the mother, but any pregnancy has risks. If you say there’s a greater risk to the mother by continuing it than by ending it then that could apply to 100% pregnancies, and if you did we would be extinct.