Paul Tully (pictured), SPUC's general secretary, has prepared the following questions and answers which explain further SPUC's position. They are followed by the inevitable call for further action ("The price of freedom is eternal vigilance", Thomas Jefferson) - as the government begins to draw up its plans for so-called independent pregnancy counselling.
What was the ‘Dorries Amendment’ seeking to do?
Nadine Dorries’ amendment to the health bill sought to require GPs to make an offer of “independent counselling” to any pregnant patient who was contemplating abortion.
Why did she put it forward?
She wants to change the present situation where abortion-providers like BPAS and Marie Stopes offer a pregnancy counselling service, but where in practice, women rarely receive any counselling before an abortion, and even then, they receive it from counsellors who are working for abortion providers and cannot be regarded as independent. This is indeed a scandalous situation, but Nadine Dorries’ proposal is not the right way to address it, we believe.
What was wrong with Nadine’s proposal?
The amendment actually called for: “independent information, advice and counselling services” for pregnant women. “Independent” meant either from the NHS or from another source that is not an abortion service, but official regulations would be required to stipulate who could be a pregnancy counsellor. Those regulations would be drawn up by pro-abortionists in the Department of Health – and could threaten pro-life counselling groups, who might be totally excluded.
Nadine’s amendment did not say what “information” or “advice” would entail, but there are pitfalls in these areas too. She is not trying to promote abortion but there is no guarantee her proposals would reduce the numbers of abortions either, and they may make it much harder if not impossible for some pro-life groups and doctors/nurses to carry on their good work.
Is Nadine Dorries pro-life?
Mrs Dorries is not pro-life; she calls herself "pro-choice" and is quite open and honest about it. She said for example that she does not believe that pro-life or Christian organisations should be allowed to offer pregnancy counselling.
People may ask why she was viciously attacked by the pro-choice lobby if she is not pro-life. There may be several reasons, perhaps.
Firstly, unlike pro-abortionists who call themselves pro-choice she really was arguing that pregnant women be offered help with various choices – help to have an abortion or to keep their baby. Pro-abortionists like Diane Abbott and Chris Bryant reacted violently against Nadine, because she exposed the real, deceitful agenda of the “pro-choice lobby”– which as we know is to promote one choice: abortion.
Secondly, some pro-abortionists probably think that Nadine was a pro-lifer being disingenuous, and this would make them angry.
Thirdly, she has been presented as being “pro-life” in the press, causing some confusion. She herself has strenuously denied such assertions. Furthermore, in the debate she made this statement:
“I should like to make this point before I take any more interventions, because I also want to defend BPAS. I do not want it to look as if I am attacking the organisation, because it, and probably more so, Marie Stopes, do what they do—the clinical procedure of carrying out abortion—incredibly well. The service that they provide for the NHS is absolutely vital, and I do not want to see Marie Stopes or BPAS disappear or to diminish their roles. They have a job to do, and they do it well. Their job is the provision of clinical abortions, and I want that to continue.” (Nadine Dorries, Hansard, 7 Sept 2011, column 369)
There is also a question of why some pro-life people or groups think that Nadine Dorries is pro-life, and have backed her amendment.
As mentioned above, she has been described as pro-life in the media, despite denying this herself. Some pro-life people may think that she is just pretending to be ‘pro-choice’ as a ploy to stop some abortions. Others see Nadine as a likeable and approachable personality, without the airs and graces of some politicians. She has shown admirable tenacity and resilience under attack. These qualities should not lead us to overlook the dangers and imprudence of what she is doing.
What should SPUC and other pro-life people do now?
Despite the defeat of the amendment, the Department of Health is going to draw up plans for so-called independent counselling. We must contact MPs now, in advance of the proposals, and ask them to help ensure three things:
1) that the proposals are primarily designed to further the government’s stated priority of reducing the abortion rate;
2) that the work of pro-life agencies that seek to help women avoid abortions is promoted and not impeded by any regulations, and equally that the inherent right of conscientious objection to abortion is fully respected;
3) that MPs tell the minister they are prepared to vote down any regulations that are not fit for purpose in this regard.
Postscript: What about Frank Field?
The veteran Labour MP Frank Field originally backed the amendment, but in the later stages, differed in his view on strategy from Nadine Dorries. He thought that the amendment should have been withdrawn before the debate, because of the Department of Health’s offer to introduce regulations for independent counselling.
In the event, the DoH are going to do this anyway. Mr Field has never liked confrontation on the abortion issue. In a way, it is surprising that he should have teamed up in the first place with Nadine, who is always up for a fight.
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