Anti abortion protesters standing outside a hospital

Herald exposé of anti-abortion campaign in Scottish schools

December 19, 2022

An exposé by The Herald newspaper has uncovered the extensive access anti-abortion group has in schools. Evidence shows the extent of SPUC (Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child) visits to Scottish pupils.

According to the Herald investigation, the group, noted by medical groups for taking legal action to restrict abortion access, has made numerous ‘visits’ to classrooms. This includes 33 trips to just one secondary school in Glasgow.

News reports also reveal how the group receives significant overseas anonymous donations. It is also involved in significant lobbying of MSPs against abortion.

The front page story details how numerous secondary schools across the country are visited by representatives of the group. At least one primary school has also been targeted by the group. In addition to opposing access to abortion, SPUC are active in opposing humanist campaigners’ efforts to legalise assisted dying. They also previously opposed same-sex marriage legislation.

An image of the front page of the Herald newspaper from Monday 19th December 2022. Main headline reads - Anti-abortion group makes dozens of visits to schools:  'Grave concerns' as controversial group in 33 trips to one secondary.'

SPUC has also been at the forefront of attempts to oppose legislation to protect women from harassment outside healthcare facilities by establishing protest buffer zones around hospitals.

The involvement of the group in school lessons drew criticism by numerous groups, including ourselves:

As humanists we believe in bodily autonomy, including access to safe and legal abortion for women who do not wish to be pregnant. We create age appropriate materials for high schools that explain humanists views on ethics issues such as abortion, in line with the RMPS curriculum.

Despite our firm belief in a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, we have not (and would never) run pro-abortion clubs for school children. To do so would be inappropriate and would not respect young people’s rights. There is a huge difference between schools objectively presenting differing viewpoints, and repeatedly inviting in groups that hold anti-abortion views. And most importantly leave no space for children and young people to develop critical thinking skills and reach their own conclusions.

We have grave concerns about the repeated visits of SPUC to schools in Scotland, their funding of anti-abortion clubs for primary school aged children, and the vocal support of some educators for this group. We fully support the Liberal Democrats’ call for the local councils in Scotland involved in these allegations to provide further explanation.

Fraser Sutherland, Chief Executive, Humanist Society Scotland

Relationship, Sexual Health and Parenthood lessons, particularly those on sensitive issues that relate to rights to bodily autonomy and reproductive rights must be rights-based and delivered by trained professionals in an age-appropriate, sensitive and objective manner.

Local authorities and the Scottish Government, which has overall responsibility, must ensure the content of sessions provided by external organisations are rights-based and consistent with the principles and approach of the Curriculum for Excellence.

Nick Hobbs, Head of Advice and Investigations, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland

Information on pregnancy and abortion should come from qualified teachers or medical professionals. At the very least there should be broader representation from a wider range of groups with a range of perspectives on any visit.

Otherwise there is a real risk pupils come out of these sessions with a less useful and realistic perspective on the world than they went in with. Local authorities need to set out what their rationale is for facilitating these visits and then there needs to be a proper public debate about whether such activities have any place in Scottish schools.

Willie Rennie MSP, Education spokesman, Scottish Liberal Democrats

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