Bishop Keenan sits addressing the health committee. The screengrab shows him infront of a name holder wearing a dog collar and holding up a leaflet. There is a jug of water to the right. He has short grey hair and a reddish face.

Bishop describes anti-abortion leaflets full of misinformation as “factually accurate”

March 13, 2024

Bishop John Keenan has described leaflets riddled with misinformation, of the kind offered to people entering abortion centres, as “factually accurate,” during a bizarre performance in front of Holyrood’s health committee. Bishop Keenan also said the leaflets cited “the NHS and fairly reputable journals,” and compared so-called “prayer vigils” outside abortion facilities to Faslane Peace Camp.

Bishop Keenan, who serves the Paisley Diocese, made the remarks as anti-abortion individuals and groups were called to present their views during consideration of Gillian Mackay MSP’s buffer zones bill. If passed, the bill will establish protest-free safe-access zones around facilities offering abortion services. Currently, many of these areas are targeted by religious protestors. These protestors often offer leaflets like the one endorsed by Bishop Keenan, or other sources of misinformation, in the guise of support and guidance.

Responding to the Bishop’s statements during the committee, Conservative MSP Sandesh Gulhane, a trained medical doctor, described the leaflets as containing “really concerning misinformation.” Reading from one leaflet, he pointed out a series of inaccurate statements, including that abortions are linked to breast cancer.

Humanist Society CEO Fraser Sutherland commented on the Bishop’s remarks in a statement that was quoted in The National’s coverage of the evidence session:

“Bishop John Keenan has unwittingly played into the hands of the pro-choice campaign with his testimony in front of Holyrood’s health committee today. By handing round leaflets he barely seemed to recognise, but which he was happy to endorse as ‘factually accurate,’ he allowed the only medic on the panel, Sandesh Gulhane MSP, to totally dismantle the credibility of the information presented in them. As usual, this included lies and scaremongering about the health risks of abortion care.

“Perhaps the pro-choice campaign owes Bishop Keenan a drink. But on a serious note, the level of medical ignorance displayed by the Bishop and his reading material highlights more than ever the need for cross-party support to protect people seeking abortion healthcare from harassment and misinformation.”

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