22nd May 2023
Scottish Teacher Defends Abortion Education Petition Amid Anti-Abortion Group's Legal Threat
Teacher contacted by lawyers acting on behalf of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), a controversial anti-abortion group.
Gemma Clark, who has been teaching since 2016, remains resolute in her campaign for improved abortion education in schools despite receiving a legal threat from an anti-abortion organization. Clark launched a petition in November 2023 advocating for comprehensive and destigmatizing educational resources on abortion to be made available in all secondary schools across Scotland. The Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee started considering the petition after it was reported by The Herald in February.
However, Clark recently faced opposition as she was contacted by lawyers acting on behalf of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), a controversial anti-abortion group known for its opposition to abortion buffer zones and equal marriage. In a letter dated 28 April 2023, sent by Glasgow firm Livingstone Brown, the lawyers accused Clark of making false and defamatory allegations against the SPUC regarding the spread of misinformation. The letter extended an invitation to visit the SPUC offices, meet their staff, and speak to women who claim to have benefitted from their work. It also emphasized the SPUC's position that treatment for an ectopic pregnancy should not be regarded as an abortion. The letter concluded with a reminder that the invitation to visit the SPUC premises was "made without prejudice to any other course of action that SPUC may consider necessary to protect their public reputation."
Society for the Protection of Unborn Children
Various media outlets have previously reported on the activities of the SPUC. VICE News uncovered the organization's ties to anonymous American donors, while The Guardian alleged that an SPUC leaflet contained misinformation about the risks of abortion, including claims of depression, anxiety, infertility, and breast cancer. In contrast, NHS guidance states that abortion does not increase the risk of breast cancer or mental health issues, nor does it affect a woman's future fertility. The SPUC maintains that its content is based on "scientific facts surrounding life before birth."
In recent developments, materials featuring the SPUC have been removed from the BBC Bitesize website, and a theatre company performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival distanced itself from the group last year. Clark, speaking exclusively to The Herald, expressed her belief that the legal threat was an attempt to intimidate her into silence. Undeterred, she asserted her right to discuss easily accessible public information and stated that she would seek support from her union. Clark also revealed that she had received messages from teachers at Catholic schools who supported her petition but were apprehensive about publicly expressing their concerns over women's rights and abortion rights.
When asked whether the legal threats had made her reconsider her campaign, Clark resolutely replied, "Absolutely not." She expressed increased determination to shed light on the precarious situation in Scotland, where right-wing groups are attempting to erode the rights of women and LGBTQ+ individuals while intimidating those who oppose their agenda.
Scottish Labour Party Response
Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon, a staunch advocate for hospital buffer zones, condemned the tactics employed by the SPUC and called for an urgent review of such groups' role in Scottish schools by the education secretary. Lennon emphasized the need for accurate and balanced information on abortion to be made available to young people, particularly in the face of anti-choice organizations gaining access to schools. She stressed that discussions about abortion should be framed as a healthcare issue related to sexual health and relationships within the context of mandatory statutory sex and relationships education.
The SPUC has not responded to requests for comment.