Nadine Dorries is the MP for Mid-Bedfordshire and a writer. Her first novel, The Four Streets, became a number one bestseller earlier this year.
Last week, the most recent EPICure study confirmed what many always knew; that if the NHS throws everything it has at saving the life of a premature baby born at 23 weeks gestation, there is an excellent chance of survival and an ongoing healthy life.
The possibility has been raised that there will be fresh calls from MPs to reduce the abortion limit from 24 weeks, and I have sat back and patiently waited for the Westminster wall of silence to crumble. After all, I have already done my bit, suffered and wear the scars to prove it.
To understand why there has been not so much as a whisper, one has to know Westminster and fully comprehend the remoteness of politicians and journalists.
I’m guessing that a quick canvass of Clacton would provide you with a snapshot of an electorate – the majority of which would be stunned to know that abortions take place in the UK up to 24 weeks for healthy babies and to birth for minor disabilities.
Now that a recent EPICure study has demonstrated the benefits of advances in medical science and the value of intervention, it would be fair to assume those who have cited an earlier not so favourable EPICure study when arguing against a reduction of the upper limit, based on the life expectancy of premature babies, will cite the most up to date study to support a reduction.
Did I just hear someone laughing? Oh yes, that was me.
On the issue of abortion, Westminster divides into two ghettos – pro-life and pro-choice. As a result, stalemate has won the day for over 45 years. The Abortion Act of ‘67 is now virtually defunct, and abortion practice is decided behind closed doors by unelected civil servants in the Department of Health, or by the Director of Public Prosecutions. That is not how a democracy works.
But don’t hold your breath waiting for calls from a pro-life or a pro-choice MP to reform the redundant legislation. Neither group is prepared to enter into battle for fear of losing ground to the other.
In my almost ten years as an MP, I have repeatedly called for a reduction in the upper term limit. In 2008, on the eve of the most significant vote to reduce the 24 week limit, a prominent, political lobbying, pro-life Catholic sent an email to MPs stating that my attempts to reduce the limit were ‘dangerous.’
Indeed, so afraid was the pro-life lobby that a reduction of the upper limit would involve a quid pro quo at the opposite end of the time scale involving reform to make it easier for women to access abortion in the early stages of pregnancy that it fought me tooth and nail. And they won.
Meanwhile, the pro-choice lobby is deeply distrustful of anyone who attempts to reform abortion law and aimed their attack upon me personally. To discredit me would serve to undermine my aims and objectives.
I was depicted me as someone slightly less likeable than Eva Braun – no doubt encouraging the egg pelleting across the front of my house and the intact egg which, amazingly, sailed straight through the glass window pane and didn’t smash until it hit the floor (I’m sure a science teacher can explain that phenomenon) – along with the constant personal jibes, trolling and threats from truly deranged people who live in strange blogs on the internet…and the eventual hanging of the label around my neck of ‘Mad Nad’, because anyone who thinks club foot is not a good enough reason to abort up until the point of birth must surely be mad. How more effective or sexist a way is there to diminish a woman?
None of the above is any reason for an elected MP to be cowed, and shirk responsibility to fight for what is right and reasonable and to remain silent on the emotive issue of abortion.
Anything and everything that happens in Westminster is achieved via a process of political horse-trading. Don’t look surprised; you have watched the House of Cards. Many MPs don’t and won’t listen to debate to vote for a reduction as they place their own ambition before principle, and nurture dreams to become a Minister. One day. Maybe. Much better to go with the flow – up a greasy pole.
One only has to check out the progress of MPs who voted for my 2008 amendment. They are hounded by left-wing, pro-choice journalists, and will be forever more. Ask Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt – and this is because the majority of intelligent and terribly well put together journalists (you know the type: read Bryony Gordon’s book, The Wrong Knickers for background) are largely of one opinion – abortion is a fantastic and precious thing.
They believe in the woman’s right to choose to abort up until the point of birth, for whatever reason she sees fit. The reason why is irrelevant as it has nothing whatsoever to do with the baby, but has everything to do with a woman’s right to decide exactly what she does with her own uterus.
Well, here’s the egg in the eye surprise pro-choicers: I agree with you, (yes, you, Polly Toynbee, Zoe Williams et al) to a point. I have sympathy with your point of view.
I’m happy to concede the ground I have never wanted but previously fought for – in order to ameliorate the pro-life campaigners and prise one group of zealots off my back. I am entirely relaxed to trade the abolition in law of two doctors’ signatures for a reduction from 24 weeks to 20.
I am also happy for a woman seeking an abortion to be seen and treated by a female nurse practitioner, likely to be far more compassionate and understanding than a male doctor. In fact, I would advocate specialist training and an appropriate qualification for an abortion nurse practitioner (the opposite, I suppose, to a midwife) and remove the need for doctors from the process altogether.
The very last person a midwife or a mother in labour ever wants near the delivery room is a doctor – especially a male doctor. The same should also apply at the opposite end of the process, which is frankly far less perilous.
At this point in this article, pro-life MPs will be on their backs, squealing like dying beetles in the corridors of Westminster – and so I should quickly add, for this concession, I want something back. Abortions on the basis of gender should be prosecutable in law with a severe penalty.
Can you hear the feminists wailing and beating their bra-less chests? Are you wondering why?
Let me help. It is because the principle of a woman’s ownership of her uterus is in direct and open conflict with the fact that gender abortions are mostly sought to terminate the life of undesirable little girls – as the increased male birth rate in some parts of the country confirms.
Despite the fact that clinics and practitioners were caught red-handed aborting baby girls and subsequently investigated, the Director of Public Prosecutions has ruled that it is not in the public interest to prosecute. And so the Herodian message goes forth from an unelected office somewhere within the depths of Whitehall: abort your first-born females to your hearts content. They are worthless anyway. There will be no price to pay.
Stop wailing, feminists (their number includes me by the way): maybe it’s time to re-evaluate what all women want. By that, I mean the entire female electorate, not just those sat in Islington Starbucks. That’ll be you, journalists and Ms Harman, (truly sorry, H) – you mostly metro-elite, university-educated, politically obsessed types. After all, you have excluded most of the population to date with your bullying dominance of the broadsheets and the Commons chamber in your ever-so-right-on way.
Most female MPs claim to be feminists, and yet their deep suspicion of each other, along with the political ideology that some carry into Parliament (sorry, Labour MPs, that’s you) or the others who constantly try to prove the point that the Conservatives are hip and cool (yes, home team and Amber; that’s you) has resulted in abortion policy being controlled by unelected officials who are laughing all the way past the ballot box – at you.
So while pro-life and pro-choice continue to hold meeting after meeting, year after year, here I go again – off to beg a ten-minute rule bill from the Whips Office or a piece of legislation to be amended.
Because the findings in the EPICure report dictate it must be done. You will hear the rotor blades of a fan fire up shortly, and I should be scared. But, it’s my job not to be. It is what the privilege of being sent to Westminster demands from us. At least this way we keep talking and debating. That’s far preferable to a wall of silence which gifts the civil servants a free run and renders the electorate (in particular, women voters) totally powerless.