Yesterday saw the attempt by the Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire, Nadine Dorries, to amend the NHS bill to change the legal basis by which women seeking an abortion receive advice and counselling. Now this is not area where I would claim to have a great deal of knowledge, but I know a piece of bad legislation when I see it. This extremely controversial amendment had united woman’s rights groups, the medical profession, and many others in opposition to it. It seemed to be based on the assumption that the current system is failing and those involved in it where largely motivated by things other than the welfare of the women they were dealing with. Evidence for this assumption was not provided.
I don’t generally approve of Diane Abbott MP but she did make a very good and well argued speech in yesterday’s debate. One with which it is hard not to thoroughly agree. She said;
“The case that the amendment is intended to make is that tens of thousands of women every year are either not getting counselling that they request, or are getting counselling that is so poor that only new legislation can remedy the situation. I might say, after many years in the House, that in matters of this kind, if legislation is the answer we have almost certainly asked the wrong question…..
…the proposers of the amendment are asking us to believe, on the basis of purely anecdotal evidence, that tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and charity workers involved in the 190,000 abortions a year are wilfully ignoring both the law and the guidance of the British Medical Association and the Royal Colleges. They go further than that, arguing that tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and charity workers are merely in it for the money. They imply that those men and women are involved in some sort of grotesque piecework. It is almost as though they were paid per abortion. The proposers of the amendment, I might add, also seem to be arguing that thousands of women do not actually know what they are doing. It tells us something about the validity of their claims that they are obliged to smear tens of thousands of doctors and nurses to make any kind of case…..
…There is no evidence base for the amendments, and on the basis of all the recent polls there is no substantive support for amendments of this nature. Legislation addressing the issues raised by Government Members is already in place. This House should have more respect for the medical profession and for the vulnerable women who put themselves forward for abortion in one of the most difficult periods in their lives, rather than support an amendment of this nature, which is spurious and baseless. I urge the House emphatically to reject the amendment.”
So the question has to be asked – what on earth was the Member of Parliament for Luton South, Gavin Shuker, doing voting for this amendment?
I’m afraid you can’t justify this vote with arguments based on religious and moral views on abortion. This wasn’t about that issue. This is very bad judgment on Gavin’s part.
They irony is that his predecessor as Labour MP, Margaret Moran, who is facing charges of forgery and false accounting later this month, given her record on women’s rights, I’m pretty sure would have voted against. Gavin, you are being seriously misguided if in comparison to Margaret Moran you come off worse!
In fairness I should say that the Conservative MP for South West Beds, Andrew Selous, along with, embarrassingly, four Lib Dem MPs, also voted for the Dorries amendment. So he isn’t the only one displaying bad judgment. The other Labour MP for Luton, Kelvin Hopkins, voted against.
Happily, the amendment was voted down with a massive 250 majority (368 against – 118 for).
This content was originally posted on my old Strange Thoughts blog.