No real surprise that the government is now backtracking on Nadine Dorries and Frank Field’s proposals to stop organisations such as The Society for Constructive Birth Control and Racial Progress Marie Stopes International from offering abortion counselling. Dorries’ own position on abortion is in itself confusing.  In this Daily Mail article, she describes how she was told to “toughen up” by a fellow nurse while participating in a botched abortion.  This event, she confesses, made her feel as though she had “participated in a murder” and led her, ultimately, to table the proposed amendment.  Yet, in the same article she goes on to say, “I am pro-choice, pro-women’s rights. I fully support the legalisation of abortion in 1968 and would hate to see a return to the dark days of back-street operations.”

On the question of the suitability of organisations to provide advice, she has said ““I’ll say it again, no organisation which is paid for carrying out abortions and no organisation that thinks it’s appropriate to bring God into a counselling session with a vulnerable woman, should be allowed anywhere near the counselling room.”

It seems to me that the debate over who provides the advice is a dead duck.  Of course, any changes to the current situation are to be welcomed, and it may well be that innocent lives could be saved thanks to this proposal. However, one cannot make any serious headway if one concedes (or fails to make) the essential point of the inherent wickedness of abortion itself.  The who, what, where and how of the new counselling is unclear. It is not hard to imagine though that there will be some directive stipulating that abortion must be presented as a legitimate option, and that one’s personal beliefs or “religious faith” should not interfere with a woman’s right to choose.  It would be hard to see how any organisation could avoid formal cooperation in abortion were it to sign up to such a directive.  The eventual fate of such organisations (were they ever to get approval in the first instance) would inevitably be similar to that faced by those adoption agencies which refused to place children with homosexual couples.

SPUC have produced a Q & A on the ammendment, the conclusion of which is, “Given the uncertainty about the effect of the amendment, we cannot ask MPs to support it.”  John Smeaton’s views are here.  Make sure you let your MP know what you think.