Why I want Tony Bland's doctor tried for murder: Geraldine Bedell meets the pro-life priest determined to obey 'higher laws'

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The Independent Online
'I WOULDN'T say I have worried about the Blands' grief, no. But I don't want to talk about the Blands: they've been used to whip up emotional hysteria in support of euthanasia. The concentration now must be on the doctor.'

Father James Morrow - the priest campaigning to bring the doctor who treated the Hillsborough victim Tony Bland to trial for murder - is a dapper 58- year-old with silver hair and pebble glasses. He is mild-mannered, polite, and obsessed.

He first intended to bring a private prosecution against Allan and Barbara Bland, Tony's parents, as well as the doctor, but dropped the idea because of what he calls 'a well-orchestrated movement of national hysteria'. No such concession for Dr Jim Howe: 'I thought of going to the county court next, but my latest legal advice is that I'll have to go straight to Queen's Bench.'

Fr Morrow lives in a barely converted school house in Braemar, accompanied by a shifting population of what can only be described as acolytes: three when I visited last week, handsome people in their twenties and thirties, with an unnerving habit of accosting you with photographs of foetuses and hissing: 'This is worth dying for]' Come summer, there will be up to 20 people (probably including some Russians) bedding down in the house and worshipping in the private chapel converted from a stone barn-cum- dwelling in the garden.

Fr Morrow was on his way to address anti-abortionists in Russia when the Law Lords decided that Tony Bland could die. He made a detour to the hospital to press leaflets upon doctors and nurses. He admits that he also tried to get to Tony Bland and feed him - 'but I think they had a plain-clothes policeman'.

Fr Morrow is fond of saying that 'there is a higher law than Queen and country - 'Thou shalt not kill' '. He has been to prison twice, for failing to pay fines after convictions for public-order offences; in 1990, he received a three-month suspended sentence for assaulting the pregnant manager of an abortion clinic. 'I prefer to be at home than in prison,' he says (the acolytes, one of whom has just spent a week in jail himself, titter), 'but . . . whatever the Lord happens to arrange, I'll go along with it.'

He has given up his parish duties and devotes himself to campaigning against abortion and euthanasia: raising funds from his 1,250 supporters, writing pamphlets and picketing abortion clinics.

He grew up in Paisley, the eighth of 12 children, and wanted to be a priest from the age of five. He studied for seven years at the Gregorian University in Rome, took an MA at Glasgow University in maths and Latin, with a bit of Italian and moral philosphy thrown in, and rounded it off with a year's teacher training. When he was 32, and recently ordained, David Steel's 1966 Abortion Bill came before Parliament and presented him with his life's work.

Fr Morrow sat on the board of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (Spuc) for seven years, but left in disgust: 'Spuc achieved virtually nothing, because it couldn't see past changing the law.' He himself fires on all fronts, also attacking contraception, which he sees as 'leading to a moral shambles. People don't have to reproduce, so they don't have to marry either.' Contraception 'opens the door to killing babies. Pregnancy is not a disease, to be treated with poisonous pills. It is an entirely natural state for a married woman.'

He once produced a pamphlet called Don't Poison Your Bride]; he seems to think that a woman's destiny lies mainly in a bovine state of permanent reproduction, and dismisses what women themselves may say on the subject. 'Some mothers will allege for some of the time that their pregnancy is unwanted, but once the baby is born, the tables are turned,' he asserts.

He is now trying to argue in the courts that the psychological grounds for 93 per cent of abortions are wrong, because abortion always has a damaging effect on a woman's psychology. Women are not necessarily the best judges: 'They don't know how they are going to feel in future.'

If this seems contorted, consider his views on 'the nonsense of overpopulation, a scientifically unsound idea and the product of atheism. The theist knows that God is wise, and gave us a quite gigantic planet. Among the first words of the Judeao-Christian revelation was the instruction to 'increase and multiply and fill the earth'. And God has not come back to tell us to change that.'

But didn't God also give us free will, and a lot to sort out by ourselves? This, he says, is 'not relevant here'. What is relevant is 'that politicians won't spend five minutes considering the impact

of abortion on unemployment'.

Sorry? 'Four million babies have been destroyed in the womb since the Abortion Act: that adds up to a colossal amount of work to be done. And then we wonder why we have massive unemployment in Western countries.' I completely fail understand this; later I can only conclude that babies solve unemployment by taking women out of the workforce.

The final failing of Spuc and similar organisations for Fr Morrow is their tendency merely to lobby Parliament: 'That's not where they actually pull the heads off the babies.' Serious anti- abortionists pester already distraught women outside clinics; they 'take initiatives' (in Florida this month, a man shot dead a doctor during an anti-abortion protest outside a women's clinic). 'Say there's no mother and baby home in your town,' Fr Morrow says. 'Open your own house] Put a notice up in the window.'

All this could be dismissed as eccentric - and inconsistent, since he accepts 'in principle' capital punishment and 'just wars'. The Roman Catholic Church is certainly anxious to distance itself from him: 'Fr Morrow is not acting in any official capacity; he is a freelance,' said a spokesman. Life, the anti-abortion pressure group, similarly has reservations.

But eccentricity could yet be powerful. If all else fails, he will try the European Court of Human Rights. 'When I come to the Day of Judgement,' he says quietly, 'God's not going to get me on this one. I'm not giving up.'

(Photograph omitted)