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The Dorries amendment was flawed from the start. We can’t let it split the pro-life movement

It would be a major victory for the devil if yesterday’s vote were to turn pro-lifers against each other

By on Thursday, 8 September 2011

Nadine Dorries speaking in the Commons yesterday (PA photo)

Nadine Dorries speaking in the Commons yesterday (PA photo)

I have worked for over four decades in the United Kingdom in crisis pregnancy support and pro-life political activism, and like many other colleagues I privately voiced serious concerns with the wording of Nadine Dorries’s amendments on abortion counselling. Our arguments need to be aired and understood. There should, however, be neither finger pointing nor point scoring, let alone tearing up of membership cards, following the defeat in Parliament. There is always difficulty in keeping pro-life supporters working together, and it would be a major victory for the devil if the divisions which continually infect us were to become even more auto-destructive after this recent vote. And those of us who opposed the amendments should not be vilified.

We acknowledge that Ms Dorries has done a valuable service in focusing a vital spotlight both on the issue of abortion itself and the inadequacies of the current counselling processes. Some pro-life critics expressed opposition simply because Ms Dorries openly reiterates that she does not hold pro-life beliefs, but for the majority of us this was not the reason for opposition. We sensibly realise that politics is as ever the art of the possible, and that the abortion battle will always be an incremental one as we chip away at a law which has produced a genocide of 7,000,000 tiny lives since 1967.

So why, then, were we opposed? Because of what were seen as fundamental flaws in the construction of the amendments, making them either dangerous or simply impracticable. In essence the aim was to take provision of counselling away from abortion providers, on the basis that they are financially motivated to perform as many terminations as possible and therefore not likely to be objective. We agree that objectivity is a genuine problem but the idea that abortion clinics are motivated by loads of money, while tenable in the US, where abortions are performed by private clinics, simply does not have weight in Britain. The vast majority of UK abortions are subcontracted by the Department of Health to registered clinics who are paid from the public purse a price that has been officially established. After many encounters with those who work in abortion clinics in our country, I truly believe that these people are motivated, not by any desire to amass a fortune, but by a burning ideological commitment to a woman’s right to abortion.

The Dorries’s amendment wanted counselling provision removed from abortion clinics on the basis that it would inevitably be biased, and immediately the pro-choice lobby levelled (logically I would suggest) similar accusations against pro-life counselling. They then gathered their forces and turned on the pro-life centres, doing unhelpful damage with high-profile “stings”.

The financial arguments are minor compared to one intrinsic problem in the amendments: namely, the proposal to remove the responsibility for counselling from the clinics performing abortions. Far from removing this responsibility, we should be enforcing it on abortion providers. They should have an absolute duty to give the most up-to-date information possible relating to the psychological and physical risks of abortion, as well as accurate details of fetal development, plus information regarding support and help for those not wishing to terminate their pregnancies. This is how legislation in the US (Ohio, Texas and others) has been formulated successfully.

The reality in Britain is that most women go directly to the abortion clinics where abortions can be arranged within hours or certainly days, and with minimum counselling. It is imperative that proper information and slowing-down mechanisms are in place, reinforced, and delivered at the actual point of abortion provision.  

Hopefully the consultation taking place later this year, as proposed by Health Minister Anne Milton, will determine robust parameters for information and advice to which abortion providers will have to adhere. We are grateful that abortion is firmly on the agenda, we hope to influence positively the forthcoming consultation, but are relieved that pitfalls in the proposed amendments have been avoided. It is time for the pro-life movement to work together for a new deal for women and their unborn children – both of whom deserve better than abortion. 

  • paula mendez

    I am a recently converted scientific prolifer. I say this because as a catholic, I have always been a prolifer by faith, holding the belief that life is sacred and always should be protected from conception till natural death. However, this summer I attended Viva La Vida prolife conference in WYD Madrid and for the first time I saw a 7 and 11 week old photo of an aborted embryo which had a perfect body, head, arms even little fingers and his/her body was completely mutilated. To me this echoed the worst horrors of war and genocide that history or the news talk about. I imagined the communal burial grounds of nazi Germany or those that have been found in Chile after the dictatorship. I have realised that being prolife is not about being catholic or religious fundamentalist, as the pro-choice movement always calls, but about being factual and truthful. I think if anyone would look at this images will conclude that there is nothing right about abortion – even atheists who claim to be so rational would be able to work this one out.
    However what worries me most about the abortion debate in this country, is that there isn’t any. Yesterday was an example of how this issue will never be debated in complete honesty and truth. In yesterday’s parliamentary session, the aggressiveness of the pro-choice movement came into light and sadly, they are blocking and open and honest debate with their intolerant behaviour. In many ways this is like a war where babies are attacked from all different sources: the media – The Guardian and The times -, the deputy Prime minister closing on Cameron, and some of the MP’s who spoke against the amendments and who view abortion solely a ‘woman issue’, amongst others, even the unions! It seems that before an in depth debate, the first step forward is for the prolife movements or any sensible politicians, to demand order! Already the facts about abortion speak volumes but a real debate is not happening because those who are opposed to this horror don’t have a clear, strong and united voice.This brings me to the issue of prolife campaigners, I hope that yesterday’s episode serves to unite otherwise this cause will never be won . Again in Viva la Vida, I was surprised that Life, Spuc and others weren’t present. Only abort67…how many more are they? you see, even for young people this is confusing.Finally, a question on the aggressiveness of the pro-choice movement: On what basis do prolife protesters get arrested when standing silently outside abortion clinics with pictures of real aborted babies (even if this should be informed to women inside the clinics) as oppose to the police not arresting someone who has given a rape threat to someone and been caught on it? Regards,Paula

  • Anonymous

    Ma’am we’ve only met once so forgive me if I appear impertinent : You’re deluding yourself if you truly think there will be ANY consultation.

    You know – yes know – that the NHS and associated quangocracies will guarantee that this procedure will result in an all-out assault on conscience-rights provisions with the intention of ensuring the severest restrictions [if not forced closure] of all pro-Life agencies.

    …and Ma’am I’m sorry but it’s frankly quite duplicitous of you to appear on here and suggest that we must avoid dissension and fragmentation among pro-Life groups.


    Do you deny it?

    Can you tell us of one success – just one – even the tiniest minor victory for the pro-Life cause in this country on the political scene?
    You’ve been around for decades – surely you must know of one!!??

    Despite the millions that has passed through spuc’s hands ; despite the thousands of hours you and your ilk have spoken at conferences and debated on technicalities and wrung your hands…


    Ma’am – You have some clout on the professional Catholic scene – what have you done to confront Bishops’ Conference over Connexions, the Liverpool Care Pathway, the John & Lizzie, the Mental Capacity Act etc etc?

    D-/E+ for effort….but you lot have failed miserably, deplorably, abominably, shamefully…and may God forgive us for allowing you lot to take the reins when maybe – just maybe – the Church could have intervened and got some professionals involved who might have given us a fighting chance to save some lives.

  • Anonymous

    I think the problem is that the groundwork hasn’t been done on this issue and therefore it’s not surprising that we keep losing in the corridors of power. Technology has given us the gift of those wonderful pictures of babies as young as 8 to 10 weeks – the pro-abortionists can no longer claim it as a victimless crime or try to deny the humanity of the unborn child. But they are still successfully using diversionary tactics such as the back-steet abortionist argument, recently put over in the pro-abortion film Vera Drake.
    The pro-life camp needs to get the image of the unborn child firmly burned into everybody’s awareness to undermine all the arguments of the pro-abortionists – only when we have done the groundwork will we start to win the political debate.

  • Anonymous

    Cestius – Yesterday Nadine Dorries was repeatedly accused of msrepresenting scientific evidence regarding foetal development and viability during the abortion reduction amendment [all this is incidentally completely untrue – Dr Death Evan Harris, Dawn Primarolo & Harriet Harman engaged in figure tampering – using last period to refer to viability & first missed period to determine pregnancy and Mrs Dorries et al [like Lord Alton before her] was uninformed of the variants]

    Pro-abortionists systemically lie about embryonic and foetal development [cognitive function/self-awareness/receptivity of pain etc] and persistently refer to anything prior to viability as an inchoate, insensitive blob of cells…they cannot argue against the irrefutable embryological evidence – therefore they repudiate it and launch propaganda memes – and it works!!!

    The arguments have already moved on though – the absolutist extreme liberal view of abortion now has precedence – abortion on demand to birth for any reason [irrespective of the law – it just happens – the Lib Dems inserted the clause ‘maternal mental distress’ for terminations to birth]] and there is now the Hermione Lee paradigm of refusing to argue against the embryology and instead arguing upon the sole remit of a woman’s right to abort…

    There is also the extremely dangerous proposition known as the international declaration of rights for the foetus – to be born in full health with no special needs or disability , into a safe, secure, environmentally socio-culturally stable environment – in other words eugenics of anything except the physically ‘perfect’ who live in a carbon neutral, eco-friendly, upwardly mobile politically liberal post-nuclear family collective of ideological purity….

    It’s a tough fight – and I repeat our present pro-Life activists are bloody useless and Our Church hierarchy are the enemies within by collaborating with the culture of death.

  • Anne

    come off it Paul, it’s very easy to write long entries on her slagging off people in a very rude way.  Why is this any less your responsibility?  you feel so passionately and you seem to have some ideas, why don’t you do something yourself?
    These debates are all pretty irrelevant, bring on the next campaign.

  • Anonymous

    I wasn’t being intentionally rude Anne – I was being intentionally angry!

    Why should I share any culpability with the Clerics refusing to do their job and the activists who prefer to play politics and give good committee rather than giving two hoots…

  • Anonymous
  • Oconnordamien

    Dude, I’m a leftie/liberal and I am in awe at that rant.

  • Anonymous

    nothing to do with political or economic or ethical liberalism

    I’m referring to the classification of abortion stances – the extreme liberal being abortion and eugenic infanticide for any reason whatsoever. An abortion having the same moral position as a haircut.

    I’m a leftie.

  • D B McGinnity

    My friend’s granddaughter is 18 and became pregnant during the summer. She is due to begin university to study medicine in a few weeks time. She recently had an abortion at 6 weeks because she was not ready to be a mother, and she wanted a career and to be independent. She decided what was best for her and it was no one else’s business. In simple terms, the matter of abortion is a private matter between the woman and her family and the abortion clinic and it is nobody else’s business but theirs. Of course there has to be legal regulation, as there is for all commercial enterprises e.g. gambling, late night shopping, child care, health and safety etc., but otherwise no one (or organisation) has the right to interfere or dictate to a woman or her family how to conduct her private family business. It does not matter anymore what legislation there is, if a woman wants an abortion she has the right to do so, if not in this country, it is easy to go elsewhere. The days of church control are gone forever and it does not matter how much noise is made by pro-life groups. The UK has signed up to European Union equality and anti discrimination legislation and there is not too much the church can do about it. The law on abortion can be changed but it cannot be very easily policed. The economic rule of supply and demand is still alive and well. That is the sad truth.

  • D B McGinnity

    Yes you are correct. Going for an abortion is now a bit like going for a haircut, laser vision correction, ‘a tummy tuck’, lipo-suction, breast enhancement, teeth whitening, etc., and many people view an abortion as being equal to any other cosmetic or fashion procedure. Such is the way of the world, and the Catholic Church, through it’s own fault, has lost it’s mandate to moralise or criticise the actions of other people, especially people who do not subscribe to the ideology of the Catholic Church. I am not pleased by this situation, but reason and logic have overtaken arduous piety, strenuous devotion to saints and habitual confession.