Monday, 8 November 2010

Nadine Dorries is playing a clever game

I wrote this article for Labourlist last week, but had some computer problems so we decided not to post it because the version I sent in was missing the references. But I quite liked it, so I'm posting it here instead. Enjoy!

Nadine Dorries is playing a very clever game, so clever in fact that I debated not writing this piece. But the more I researched what she’s actually been saying, the more I’ve come to admire the sneaky, manipulative tactics she’s using to confuse the debate about what advice women should be legally obliged to be given when they request an abortion.

Her argument is ironically enough based around ensuring women have all the information to make the most appropriate decision for their lives at that time. This means making it a legal requirement that women who are considering terminating a pregnancy are made to listen to information on adoption in equal measure to information on abortion. So really let’s face it, if you are pregnant you have a limited number of options and a limited time frame to make them in. You can choose to terminate the preganancy – obviously if you are aware that you are pregnant before the current 24 week time limit (something Dorries believes should be lowered). You can choose the carry the pregnancy to full term and find an adoptive family to become parents – but only if you are a heterosexual couple (according to Dorries). Or you can choose to raise the child yourself and make the life changing decision to become a parent. Not a decision to be taken lightly.

Now this isn’t really the clever use of language that I admire in her press release and tweets on the subject. Stealing the language of campaign groups who oppose your stance is an old trick, one used to simply muddy the waters and confuse the debate. Now Dorries has based her press release around three different statistics. The first is a classic demonstration of this tactic. Beginning by maintaining that these are very simple questions, insinuating the simplicity of the answers, the language used in the questions is usually associated with pro-choice organisations. Not the ones which would invite Nadine Dorries to sit on their boards.

And this is where she gets particularly clever. The focus of her argument is that women should be informed of all the possible risks of all the options facing them, whether they be physical or psychological. So far so good. But the reality would be that women would have to be told of situations which rarely occur, giving them added concern and worry.

As a penal reformer, I’m concerned generally about how this would be enforced. Are we going to criminalise overworked doctors and nurses by making them read through crib sheets and mass produced leaflets or face punishment?

The final twist in the tale is a requirement borrowed from the American pro-life lobby. The obligatory cooling off period between diagnosis and decision. Making women who have already made a decision wait even longer before being able to go through with their choice. And this is what makes me really angry. She talks about it being about choice, and respecting the choices that women made. And then patronises them by making them wait, not actually respecting their decision at all. Using the word ‘bullied’ really irked me – women are not victims, we can make the right decisions for our own lives and these should be trusted and respected.

Women who have made the decision to seek abortion have already considered their options. In fact they would have been given information at the time of confirming the pregnancy, they don't need it again when at the point of seeking an abortion.

If you need confidential non-judgemental advice on pregnancy or safe sex, visit any one of these organisations:
Marie Stopes International:
Abortion Rights UK:
NHS Direct:

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