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I could not accept a reduction in the abortion limit if it excluded the disabled

Nadine Dorries would like to reduce the abortion limit to 20 weeks, yet as the mother of a Down’s syndrome daughter I could not support her proposal

By on Monday, 24 October 2011

MP Nadine Dorries wants to reduce the abortion limit to 20 weeks by 2015

MP Nadine Dorries wants to reduce the abortion limit to 20 weeks by 2015

I turned up on Wednesday evening at the Friary behind Westminster Cathedral for the start of the Catholic Herald’s Friary Talks. The first speaker was Nadine Dorries MP, who talked about her pro-life battles in the House of Commons. Dorries, a former nurse, witnessed a late-term abortion aged 19; the baby was born alive and she was instructed by a senior nurse not to attempt to help it. This experience has coloured her parliamentary career; she told us that helping to protect unborn children is the reason she is in Parliament.

I don’t doubt her sincerity, her hard work or her courage. She receives constant abuse and death threats because of her stand. When she told sympathetic fellow parliamentarians that she wanted to try to bring about changes to the current provisions for legal abortion, “everyone warned me not to touch it”, telling her “Why do you think no one has dared raise this subject since 1990?” (The same year that Parliament voted to fix the legal limit for abortions at 24 weeks, but excluding disabled babies who could now be aborted up to birth.)

When she was involved recently in trying to amend the Health and Social Bill to prevent pre-abortion counselling from being the monopoly of abortion providers, Dorries worked 18 to 20 hours a day for 18 weeks before the Commons debated the subject. As we know, the Government withdrew its support and her amendment was then inevitably defeated.

Despite this, Dorries is still hopeful, and has said that before the next general election she would like to see the legal age of abortion reduced from 24 weeks to 20 weeks gestation.

Yet there is a problem: her proposed 20-week limit will not, I understand, protect the weakest and most vulnerable of the pre-born, those with detectable conditions such as Down’s syndrome or spina bifida (although it would protect babies with “minor” detectable defects such as a club foot or hare lip).

However you dress this up, this means accepting the practice of eugenics. Under other circumstances I might have agreed with Dorries that amending the law to save a greater number of babies – though at the expense of abandoning others – might be the realistic, pragmatic and sensible goal. But I am compelled to reject it, and therefore to withhold my support for Dorries’ future strategies, because – as some readers of my blog will know – I have a daughter with Down’s Syndrome.

To go down this road, I would have to turn my back on unborn children like my daughter and her friends in order to save healthier (and therefore more socially acceptable) babies. This is worse than the film “Sophie’s Choice”. What message does it give to all disabled people? It informs them that in the parliamentary game of barter and bargaining, concessions and exemption clauses, they are of least account and will receive the least consideration. Christians should remember that, “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to Me.”

  • Anonymous

    Sorry Mrs Phillips but I don’t know where you get the idea that 24 weeks is the limit for Abortion for all foetuses save those with some form of debilitation…it isn’t!

    If there is any grave permanent risk to the mother’s mental health…

     [now I truly would love somebody to explain to me what that exactly means?!!!]

    …abortion up to birth is permissible!!

    Secondly there was a trick in parliament which abused the very notion of the term pregnancy: There were three determinants for the beginning of pregnancy – each [ab]used in very subtle duplicitous ways.

    a] When the expectant Mother had her last period: Those trying to disprove the viability issue actually added two weeks on to the foetuses real age and constantly referred to ‘foetuses at 20 weeks of pregnancy having minimal survival rate’ when actually they were referring to those only 18 weeks old from conception.

    b] conception – where everyone presumes means the beginning of pregnancy – but many academics  and medical practitioners argue that a pregnancy technically only begins at implantation – and out of deference to IVF the real ‘valid’ time for defining the beginning of pregnancy is the fixed time of [c]

    c] This is the where it gets really machiavellian – Considering pregnancy as only beginning at the time of the first missed period – thus you will find many doctors are signing off for abortions & institutions, independent bodies etc who are performing abortions; are actually performing abortions on 26 week old healthy foetuses!

    This ‘severe permanent risk to a mother’s health’ clause has dire consequences for those expectant mothers who are already mentally imbalanced.

    Thirdly since the mental capacity act any woman who is determined subnormal or ‘of severe mentally instability’ [this may even include severe drug-addicts]   has a legal representative who may refuse the ‘recommended treatment’ of abortion – or DECLINE to do so on behalf of the patient and permit the abortion to go ahead – against the person’s wishes.

    Fourthly any pregnant girl under 16 may demand an abortion up to birth [even if it is aganst her parents' wishes]
    BUT
    If the underage pregnant girl does not wish to have an abortion her parents or guardian or court appointed ad litum [e.g. a social case-worker] may now [since the courts changed the law forbidding underage anorexic girls from receiving treatment] force the girl to have an abortion up to birth.

    Fifthly since NICE and certain medical authorities have now severely reduced/banned provision of highly expensive ‘pregnancy safe’ anti-depressants on the NHS if a woman can prove to any doctor that she requires immediate medication without delay – this also leads to ‘justifiable pregnancy abnormality risks’ and abortion up to birth is permissible.

    Irrespective of the exemption of the physically and severely handicapped – any reduction which included them WOULD NOT guarantee their safety.
    Doctors are perfectly willing to sign off that having a handicapped child would cause severe mental anguish to the mother and it is therefore a justification to abort up to birth.

    It’s a commendable position to take against Ms Dorries  – but it’s impossible to save a handicapped child when ‘a compromise in the mother’s mental health by having a handicapped child’ remains a justification to abort on the statute books.

    Even if it included them within the regulation – there’s a loophole which will ensure mothers can murder them up to birth anyway.

  • Anonymous

    Refer to “Changing Unjust Laws Justly: Pro-Life Solidarity with the Last & the Least” by Colin Harte..says same as Francis & PP!

  • PrairieHawk

    I have been through a lot in my life and I’ve sometimes wondered if abortion had been legal when I was born (1969) and if prenatal diagnosis for my condition had existed, whether I would be here at all. We can never decide for another whether his life is worth living. Each one of us needs our chance at heroism and glory, and heroism and glory are just as possible for disabled people as they are for everyone else. My life has been very hard but I am supremely happy that I had my chance. Every kid deserves his chance, no exceptions. Anything else is just evil.

  • Oconnordamien

    “I don’t doubt her sincerity, her hard work or her courage.”
    I would agree if that statement were about Mrs. Phillips. For that reason I owe her an apology, for in the past I judged her unfairly and harshly. I thought her views were perhaps harsh, anti-woman, narrow-minded and ill-informed. Many of her articles were, in my opinion, but then I made the stupid mistake of thinking the person the same on such limited evidence. So hence the apology.

    But I’m afraid the article loses all in the first paragraph. By not doubting the speaker’s sincerity it throw’s into question the author’s judgement. Nadine Dorries has spoken openly of lying often, has been shown to be foolish in her political support and has shown a victim mentality. Most damning of all though is the fact that she glibly repeats what seems like a fantasy of Dorries,supposedly who as a 19 year old had a terrible experience. 

  • http://twitter.com/bloggerheads Tim Ireland

    “(Dorries) receives constant abuse and death threats because of her stand.”

    Not that I approve of it, but the abuse, where it exists, stems from Dorries’ refusal to engage in open and honest debate, as well as her vicious attacks on critics. There is also much that Dorries portrays as abuse that is in fact mere criticism. 

    In a similar vein, Dorries has greatly distorted if not wholly invented threats to her person. Bedfordshire Police confirm that her account of being physically stalked by up to four people is wholly inaccurate; Dorries has essentially repeatedly used the word ‘stalker’ in place of ‘critic with a website’.

  • Oconnordamien

    Not to mention her talent for nursing, where she “entered into nursing” at age 17, yet without any credited training, 2 years later was working as a surgical nurse during a serious medical procedure. It was amazing how she advanced through the 3-4 years of medical training and the years as a over-worked junior nurse in the 80′s to take part in such a procedure at the age of 19.

    It’s almost as if she’s repeating a silly scare story she heard as a student.

  • Oconnordamien

    Of course Mrs Phillips loves and cherishes her child. But I doubt she had any choice, once the pregnancy was confirmed, that was her only choice as a dutiful catholic. 

    A better idea would be gleamed by asking her other children. Those who were not of the special needs. Would any them be so blaise if they were told their child would be the same as their special sibling..