FOR the past ten years, Shawn Carney has travelled all over the world working on what he calls the “front-lines of the culture war”. Now the 33-year-old, from Texas, is bringing his controversial US-style anti-abortion campaigning to Scotland.

For six weeks, pro-life protesters, from the 40 Days for Life organisation, will picket outside the new Queen Elizabeth Universirty super-hospital in Glasgow where abortions are carried out in NHS facilities. The protests, which begin next month, will mark the first time such a demonstration has taken place north of the border.

Organisers insist it will be a “quiet prayer” vigil rather than a demonstration and women will not be approached. But pro-choice groups have raised concerns over the potential distress caused to women making an already difficult – and legal – decision.

The Sunday Herald has also uncovered examples of advice offered from groups who have held 40 Days for Life vigils in previous cities in the UK, including one where a woman was incorrectly advised she could secure an “antidote” to counteract an abortion pill, and a pregnant schoolgirl who had been considering seeking an abortion being handed a gift for her baby.

Carney, who will visit Scotland to speak to the 40 Days for Life group in Glasgow next month, co-founded the campaign as a student in Texas - which, he claims, resulted in the number of abortions dropping by 28% in the local area. He said it has now spread from an initiative in the USA to 32 countries and 607 cities, which will include Scotland and Hong Kong for the first time this year.

Carney said the campaign is “all about options” and cites as a sign of success that the no-show rate for abortion appointments can go as high as 75% when there are people “peacefully praying” outside a clinic.

But he refused to accept that a protest might better be held elsewhere to avoid intimidating women, or the notion it could be distressing for those attending the clinics.

“You can’t offer alternatives for something and then be tucked away and say we are not really here for you,” he said. “The other side of it is saying that we really do care about women and we do care about the unborn – so then why wouldn’t we be out there?

“I can’t tell you how many women who have had abortions five, ten, thirty years ago who say, 'where was the 40 Days for Life campaign when I went in to have an abortion? There was nobody and I was scared, I was pressured, I didn’t have all the facts and yet there was nobody out there'. In any just and free society we have that freedom of speech to go out and do that.”

He added: “Going into Scotland and England there is that anticipation of what is this going to be, it is going to be a bunch of lunatic Americans out here?

“Yet when it happens people realise it is just a couple of people out here praying. It is very non-eventful in that sense, it is not intimidating. A 40 Days for Life group is not intimidating when you see a mom with a three-year-old and another baby on the way out there praying.”

According to Carney, a father-of-five and Catholic who says that being from the Bible belt of East Texas prepared him for working alongside evangelical brothers and sisters in the “culture war”, there is a wide range of people involved in the 40 Days for Life campaign.

He said 25-30% of local campaign leaders are women who have had an abortion in the past. However the organisation has only one woman listed among ten board members and headquarters staff team in the USA.

For Carney, abortion can never be justified and he compared the issue to slavery when asked if he preferred a return to the time when the only option for women was risking dangerous backstreet abortions.

“There is no justification for [abortion] – it can be legal, it can be done in a nice facility, it can be done in a nice hospital, it can be done in a back alley, it still does what it sets out to do – end the life of an unborn child."

Drawing an analogy, he said that during the move to abolish slavery in America, there were some who argued that "if you have plantation in the south then maybe you do need to own a slave - they are good economic resources. We scoff at that now because it is immoral, there is nothing to justify that. If abortion does what it says then it always has to be wrong”.

The group does not employ the shock tactics of some anti-abortion activists such as Abort 67, which pickets outside clinic using graphic images, such as posters and leaflets with pictures showing dismembered foetuses.

But a study carried out last year by researchers at Birmingham’s Aston University found that even if women were not approached directly by anti-abortion activists, they found being watched intimidating.

“Many service users reported significant levels of alarm and distress, suggesting that some users experience the presence of activists outside clinics as harassment,” the report noted.

Genevieve Edwards, director of policy at Marie Stopes, said it was important to support people’s right to freedom of speech, but added: “There is a balance between that and where there are more suitable places to hold those protests than outside clinics, where women are trying to access legal health services and may be distressed by the presence of the protesters.

“What they can do is make what will be a difficult day more distressing. Even the groups who are much more low-key can still cause distress to people walking past or trying to get into the clinic.”

While the 40 Days for Life campaign say they do not directly approach women, the Facebook pages of 40 Days for Life groups established in England cite examples of cases where they have say they have "saved" babies.

One group in Manchester described how they spoke to a 16-year-old schoolgirl who had been going to the abortion clinic with a friend and told the campaigners she had changed her mind. "Both girls departed, happily with tiny gifts for themselves and the baby," the group wrote.

Another example cited was of a university student who had taken an abortion pill but became "adamant" she wanted to keep her baby after talking to the campaigners.

The group's posting said: “Speaking to a pro-life doctor friend, we knew that an ‘Abortion Reversal Pill' could work within (roughly) 48 hours or so.

“We left no stone unturned in the ensuing hours, days to seek this help for her…many efforts and numerous phone calls proved unsuccessful. Sadly three days later Ella had a ‘miscarriage’. Then of course, all the guilt, grief and recriminations beset Ella.”

There have been claims of a 'reversal of an abortion pill in the States circulated by pro-life groups, but doctors are adamant that there is no scientific evidence whatsoever behind the claims.

The post subsequently claims Ella - which the group says is not her real name - was "glad" of the presence of the anti-abortion campaigners at the clinic.

Edwards said the information being handed out by anti-abortion campaigners was often inaccurate.

She said: “I saw a leaflet the other day being handed out outside our clinic in central London saying things like 'abortion will increase your risk of breast cancer', 'you might not be able to get pregnant again' and it is simply not true.

"It is inaccurate and scaremongering and it’s putting pressure on women at a time when they may be vulnerable and hearing stories like that is awful.

“Some of the protestors we have come across will say things like 'we named your baby for you', 'we have called her whatever'.

“Tactics do vary between groups and between clinics and some can be far more intimidating than others or use more harrowing tactics.”

She added that members of the public sometimes suggest organising counter-protests, but this was discouraged to avoid having even larger groups gathering outside clinics.

The arrival of the 40 Days for Life protest in Scotland comes after the launch of a new anti-abortion coalition 'Don't Stop a Beating Heart', which it says will fight what it claims is a "proposed extension" to abortion time limits in Scotland when powers are devolved north of the border.

However the Scottish Government has repeatedly insisted there are no plans to change abortion law in Scotland. There are now concerns that it is the anti-abortion groups which are trying to use devolution to further their agenda.

In the US where the anti-abortion lobby can successfully influence lawmakers, pro-choice groups have warned that abortion rights are coming under increasing attack.

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom Project, said: "In the past five years, states have passed almost 300 new restrictions on a woman’s access to abortion.

"That is about as many as was passed in the previous 15 years. So there has been a huge surge in these sorts of restriction on the state level.”

One looming case on the horizon is a Supreme Court decision on a law in Texas which Kolbi-Molinas said would mean all abortion clinics will have to be turned into “mini-hospitals”, with the resulting high costs expected to drive many out of business.

“It would force 75% of the (abortion) clinics in that state to close,” she said. “Even if you are getting a medication abortion, which only involves the doctor handing you pills, that has to be performed in a fully-functional surgical operating room.

She added: “We all have deeply held feelings and opinions about pregnancy and abortion, but what it comes down to is that it is not a politician’s place to decide for someone else whether or when they become a parent.”

Meanwhile in response to a growing rise in the number of protests taking place outside abortion clinics in the rest of the UK, abortion care charity the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) is campaigning for legislation to create “buffer zones” where demonstrations would not be able to take place.

The organisation says that legislation in place to protect people from intimidation and harassment does not work as women seeking abortions are reluctant to go to the police to report any issues.

A spokeswoman said: “The emergence of 40 Days for Life in Scotland is a worrying development. Anti-abortion activism targeted at individual women has increased over the last five years but women in Scotland have been spared clinic-based harassment until now.

“Despite the claim that these demonstrations are simply ‘prayer vigils’ women tell us they feel frightened, humiliated and even degraded by groups like 40 Days for Life.

“We cannot expect individual women to breach their medical confidentiality and go through the police and court system to tackle the growing problem of anti-abortion activism.”

The BPAS spokeswoman said US anti-abortion groups appeared to view making headway in liberal Britain as part of their international strategy.

She added: “For us they are a minority group of people with very extreme views who are trying to force their views on other people. They are the ones who are trying to create a battle - whereas women who have abortions are just ordinary people trying to get on with their lives.”