Part of ‘Shiraz Socialist”s mission is to bring you excellent writing, even (actually, especially) from unlikely sources. Janice Turner, writing in this Saturday’s Times, deals with anti-abortion Tory MP Nadine Dorries in vintage fashion. As the article is shielded behind Murdoch’s paywall, we reproduce it below:
Britian doesn’t want a Mama Grizzly, Nadine
For some time Nadine Dorries MP, has buzzed around public life like a late-summer wasp. Vexing and attention-seeking as her utterances have been – whether calling for abstinence in girls, for disabled Twitter users to lose benefits, or championing the “rights” of high-heel-wearers at work – one hoped she would just exhaust herself banging repeatedly against the media window pane. But now, as her unsheathed sting hovers over the reputations of important and upstanding charities, there is no option but to cross the room with a rolled-up newspaper.
Where did it come from, this grotesque slur that Marie Stopes International and the British Pregnancy Advisory Sevice (BPAS) do not provide objective counseling to women but strong-arm them into abortions? Not from their raft of of strict regulatory bodies or independent inspectors, including the Care Quality Commission and the Department of Health. Nor their women clients, who routinely award satisfaction ratings around 97 per cent. Not even from the Daily Mail, which this week, on a trawl for evidence of abortion-peddling, sent a “pregnant” undercover reporter to BPAS only to find every possible option, including adoption, was evenly presented.
Now we hear that Marie Stopes and BPAS have a “financial incentive” to promote termination – that they are “kept in business” by some pay-per-abortion piece rate. Really? Two long-established, not-for-profit bodies that are awarded contracts by the NHS to supply myriad services from family planning to cervical smears and vasectomies. They just want to kill babies to make a quick buck? Well, they need to work on their productivity: the abortion rate has remained almost static for 15 years.
Speak to either charity and it is bemused, hurt and deeply alarmed. Hithertoo they had heard not a whisper of government concern or criticism. This storm came from nowhere. Because it emantes soley from the mind of Nadine Dorres.
At present a woman visiting Marie Stopes or the BPAS with a “crisis” pregnancy is given a medical check. She can then, if undecided, discuss her fears and options – often immediately, in the same building – with a trained therapist. Under the Dorres amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill, she would be sent away with a list of “independent” counsellors that might include actively anti-abortion groups. An appointment could take weeks, a decision stalled perhaps until the option of termination expires.
Which is what underlies Ms Dorries’ zeal. She has a declared mission to reduce abortions by an annual number plucked from the air: 60,000. (What she will do to assist this extra town of humans not born into the most favourable circumstances we do not learn). Her two parliamentary attempts to cut the abortion time limit from 24 to 20 weeks failed. To mount another openly would mean not just taking on not just the pro-choice lobby but the British medical establishment. Easier, then to circumvent ethical debate and slyly slip her agenda through, even if it means women’s health is imperilled by the increased likelihood of later abortions.
What Ms Dorries and Louise Mensch MP – who, smelling a media picnic, has buzzed right over with her own amendment – do not grasp is that being “pro-choice” means just that. Marie Stopes and BPAS are not “pro-abortion”. If women had been pressured to terminate, would newspaper not have resounded with such scandals? If these charities have any financial incentive at all, it is in a woman leaving their clinics satisfied with her own choice. Marie Stopes wishes to show Ms Dorries case studies of women counselled by it who do not terminate pregnanacies, including a 16-year-old girl who it discovered was being coerced by her family. Ann Furedi, the head of BPAS, has invited the Labour MP Frank Field, co-sponsor of the amendments, to meet and hear about their work: he has nor replied.
Because the object here is not best medical practice, it is only to make noise. Such was the volume of Dorries-generated droning that the Department of Health initially agreed to move towards counselling becoming independent of abortion providers. This was downgraded quickly to pland for a vague consultation, perhaps to avoid trying epistemological questions such as: “Who is truly independent?”
Or more likely Downing Street feared that if government had to step in and create its own abortion counselling body, it might be pricey, considering Marie Stopes alone receives 500,000 calls a year.
Besides, the aggregate of voters who must be grateful for such services must be legion. Though Ms Dorries suggests that she speakes for a groundswell of socially conservative opinion, there is nothing to suggest that abortion is starting to define our political landscape as in the United States, where legal abortion is under grave threat. The British position remains one of tolerant distaste: it is a grave, unpleasant provision, but a necessary one.
The trouble for Nadine Dorries is that God and hellfire don’t scare enough British women into carrying unwanted children. Neither are they swayed overly by the notion that life begins at conception. So anti-abortionists have resorted to appropriating the language of feminism. Abortion is anti-women, they say: it denigrates our nature, our unique capacity to make babies.
Furthermore these groups utilise spurious medical data to “prove” that abortion is detrimental to our health.
Look at the website of Care Confidential, a counselling organisation with branches across the UK. It purports to be even-handed while concealing its faith-based views. Abortion is listed as having many risks: mental illness, alcoholism, panic attacks. Adoption, however, is all sunny upsides: no mention of anguish suffered by generations of women who handed over their children at birth. Wopuld this, under the proposed amendment, qualify as independent advice?
This has been a week of of a dishonest debate and shameful accusations against two charities doing good work. But Nadine Dorries, hoisting the flag of her phoney counselling crusade, would seek to reverse that, How brave she likes to tell us she is; how she yearns for the adulation enjoyed by Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann for her sassy right-wing woman power.
And yet she receives only anger, ridicule and distrust. No Mama Grizzly: just a nasty, whining and bothersome bug.