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Saturday, September 03, 2011

Lib Dems flex muscles to thwart Dorries' anti-abortion amendment

This morning's Guardian reports that Nadine Dorries' campaign to toughen Britain's abortion laws is losing momentum as Tory MPs on Friday backed a rival amendment and questions emerged about links to Christian counselling services that might benefit from the proposed reform.

The Guardian say that Dorries has confirmed to them that the organisations supporting her campaign include a "crisis pregnancy centre", a type of advisory service often linked to religious anti-abortion activists:

Dorries is coming under pressure to reveal how her allies are funded. One of the most vocal public supporters of the Right to Know campaign backing the Dorries amendment to the healthcare bill is the lobby group Christian Concern, which is linked to a wealthy US evangelical organisation, the Alliance Defence Fund.

Meanwhile, political support has been ebbing away since fellow Tory MP Louise Mensch tabled a compromise amendment, which would allow women to choose whether they received counselling from faith-backed pregnancy centres or existing charities such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.

The public health minister, Anne Milton, took the unprecedented step of emailing all MPs to set out the government's voting decision.

Although emphasising that the vote on the amendment would be free, she wrote: "On the issue of preventing abortion services from offering counselling, we disagree with the [Dorries] amendment. If pressed to a vote, my ministerial colleagues in the Department of Health and I will vote against the amendments. This is because the amendments exclude existing abortion services from offering counselling."

What is interesting is the reaction of Conservative MPs who were reportedly shocked by the letter. The paper says that they believe this statement of the government's preferred view is "unheard of" ahead of a free vote and reflects the state of coalition relations, with the Liberal Democrats "running the show".

Liberal Democrat MP, Julian Huppert has tabled an amendment seeking to strengthen the status quo. It reads: "All organisations offering information or advice in relation to unplanned pregnancy choices must follow current evidence-based guidance produced by a professional medical organisation specified by the secretary of state."
An a casual observer for the last year or so of the Dorries phenomena, I had concluded that the lady in question and a small number of her friends have been inserted into parliament via safe seats to make the other MP's seem sane and to provide a distraction. The alternative explanation that she was elected by the free will and judgement of the people of mid Bedfordshire would shake my previously unquestioned belief in democracy.

This just adds to a fascinating record as an MP, how she got reelected is beyond me, as is why the right hon. lady has not been up for bringing both parliament and the party she represents into disrepute. The worst in my view is here membership of the member of the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee and the Science and Technology Select Committee, but there is lots more. Beyond scary that she has made it onto the Health Select committee.

It is important to highlight how people like Dorries get to push what are quite extreme views driven by a disregard for evidence based medicine and science.
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