'Abortion wrecks your life' claims group

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Pro-choice and anti-abortion campaigners are changing tactics and turning their attention to the impact of terminations on women's mental health, in their latest battle over the rights and wrongs of abortion.

Until now the symbol of the threatened foetus was the sole, potent image employed by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (Spuc) in its bid for national support. But on 9 January Spuc's Educational Research Trust launches an emotive book called And Still They Weep.

It is a collection of personal contributions from women who have come to regret their decision to terminate a pregnancy. They have all been helped by the Spuc-affiliated British Victims of Abortion organisation and are here identified as suffering from Post Abortion Syndrome, a form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The book claims that symptoms of the syndrome include acute depression, nightmares, repressed anger and fear of one's own capacity to harm.

Yesterday critics of Cardinal Hume, who declares abortion is "clearly evil" and "unworthy of a civilised society" in a breakfast television interview to be broadcast this morning, also concentrated on the plight of women when they responded to his comments. Janet Mearns of the National Abortion Campaign believes the increasing temperature of the debate will only have added to the torment of women who are deciding whether or not to go ahead with an abortion.

"This will put more pressure on them, but in the end I don't think it will stop them having abortions or affect the way they vote," she said.

Publication of the Spuc book and Cardinal Hume's utterances come as the political Pro-Life Alliance said it had so far found 20 candidates to stand in the coming general election against known pro-choice MPs. The alliance, backed by Life, the other main anti-abortion group in the country, hopes to field 50, which would entitle it to a television party political broadcast.

Pro-life campaigners have been encouraged by indications from the Catholic leadership that candidates who are strongly pro-choice may find Catholics cannot vote for them even if they are in favour of their other policies. This could lead to the boycotting of dozens of sitting MPs by Catholics at the next election.

Members of the Pro-Life Alliance welcomed the cardinal's comments, to be broadcast on GMTV this morning, regarding them as effective electioneering ammunition. But fellow anti-abortionists at Spuc are not convinced by the plan to take the abortion debate to the hustings for the first time.

"We don't support the approach taken by the Pro-Life Alliance," said a Spuc spokesman, Brendan Gerard.

"It is only the mainstream parties which stand any chance of getting to Parliament and we have warned Life that setting up a minority party on a single platform is not going to help the case of the unborn child at all."

Both sections of the anti-abortion lobby are united in criticism of politicians such as Tony Blair, who claim to hold pro-life views but are not anti-abortion voters.

Yesterday Janet Anderson,shadow minister for women, defended her leader's stance: "No woman chooses lightly to have an abortion," she said. "It is an agonising decision often taken in very difficult circumstances and any attempt to turn it into a political football is wrong."