The Dishonourable Member for Mid Bedfordshire

For an all too brief moment I thought that Mad Nad might be gearing up for a startling admission:

When on TV, It’s ok to argue your point as hard as you wish, and to use evidence and statistics to back that point up.

It’s not ok to lie.

What? Is this to be a belated mea culpa from Dorries?

No, of course not. It’s just the usual piss poor attempt to smear an opponent while lying through her teeth herself:

There is no NHS hospital which will carry out abortions over 16 weeks, unless the mothers life really is in serious danger and in those cases the hospitals are in Newcastle and London, North and South.

All abortions over sixteen weeks are carried out in private clinics, cross charged to the government.

We have a government policy which says it’s ok to abort to 24 weeks, and an NHS which doesn’t want to put that policy into practice.

And so an abortion industry has built up around government policy.

The lady from the pro-abortion lobby whose organisation is paid for by the unions, announced with gusto, “that’s not true,” when I made the point that no NHS hospital will carry out abortions over 16 weeks.

All of which creates something of a problem for Nadine as the statistics don’t lie and prove conclusively that NHS hospitals do carry out a significant number of abortions at 16 weeks gestation and over on ‘social grounds’, all of which Nadine would know had she simply consulted the Department of Health’s published abortion statistics.

Okay, its time for a couple of statistical tables, the first of which shows the number of abortions carried out in 2006, by gestational age, in NHS hospitals, NHS Agency clinics (i.e. private clinics/hospitals working to NHS contracts) and non-NHS clinics/hospitals:

    NHS NHS Agency Non NHS
Gestational Age No of Abortions % Number % Number % Number
13 Weeks 5125 39 1999 54 2768 7 359
14 Weeks 3691 34 1255 62 2288 5 185
15 Weeks 2924 27 789 65 1901 8 234
Total 13-15 Weeks 11740 34.44 4043 59.25 6957 6.62 777
16 Weeks 2002 28 561 63 1261 8 160
17 Weeks 1707 24 410 68 1161 8 137
18 Weeks 1357 20 271 70 950 9 122
19 Weeks 1111 16 178 75 833 9 100
Total 16-19 Weeks 6177 22.98 1419 68.08 4205 8.40 519
Total 13-19 Weeks 17917 30.49 5463 62.30 11162 7.23 1296
20 Weeks 932 20 186 71 662 10 93
21 Weeks 754 28 211 65 490 7 53
22 Weeks 616 25 154 62 382 13 80
23 Weeks 510 25 128 64 326 11 56
Total 20-23 Weeks 2812 24.15 679 66.15 1860 10.03 282

The important figure here is the figure for the number of abortions carried out in NHS hospitals between 16 and 19 weeks gestation, a total of around 1420 – the actual statistics give only the percentage carried out be each type of provider so this figure is an approximation; the exact number could be anything from 25-30 either side giving a range of 1390 to 1450 abortions in total.

Now let’s look at our second table, which gives the numbers of abortions carried out by the different types of provider at 13-19 and 20+ weeks gestation according to the grounds under which the abortion took place.

Grounds Total 13 – 19 Weeks 20 & over
C alone 18,810 16,596 2,214
D alone 214 202 12
E alone, or with A, B, C or D) 1,721 1,018 703
Total 20,745 17,917 2,948

There’s a couple of important points to note.

So far as Dorries’ claim that NHS hospitals only carry out abortions after 16 weeks where there is a serious risk to life of the woman, this is utter nonsense. Three of the main five grounds for legal abortion may take into account the risk that continuation of a pregnancy might expose a woman to a life threatening situation or to one which put them at risk of grave injury to their physical and/or mental health, these being grounds A (risk to life), B (risk of grave injury) and E (serious foetal disability). Ground E may be, in some cases, combined with grounds A and/or B but not always – sometimes it may lead to an elevated level of risk to the woman’s well-being and sometimes it doesn’t.

In 2006 there were precisely NO abortions carried out after 12 weeks in which the primary grounds given were either A or B, which is good news as its does indicate that doctors are really on the ball when it comes to identifying those women for whom pregnancy can seriously jeopardise their health, not that these account for a huge number of either pregnancies or abortions. There were, in 2006, only 1,198 abortions carried out on grounds A or B of which only 125 were on ground A. As for ground E, with or without any other grounds tacked on, there were 2,036 abortions in 2006 of which 84.5% (1,721) took place from 13 weeks gestation onwards, with 34.5% (703) taking place at 20 weeks gestation or later, 136 of which occurred after 24 weeks.

So, the most one could assert is that even if NHS hospitals almost uniform declined to carry out abortions at or above 16 weeks gestation on social grounds then the primary grounds on which the abortions they do carry out are undertaken would be that of serious foetal disability, in which any serious risks to the woman’s health are a secondary factor that may or may not be present.

More importantly, if we look a little more closely at the statistics what we find is that, in total there were only 1,018 abortions carried out on ground E between 13 and 19 weeks gestation in 2006, during which period the NHS carried out around 1420 abortions in total between 16 and 19 weeks gestation – the figure is an approximation as the statistics give only a percentage, such the margin for error could be as much as 30 either side, but this still gives a range from 1389 to 1449 and at least 370 more abortions between 16 and 19 weeks than the total number of ground E abortions across all providers between 13 and 19 weeks.

Even in the unlikely event that every single one of those ground E abortions was carried out by the NHS and that they were all carried out between 16 and 19 weeks gestation then we still have getting on for four hundred abortions taking place in NHS hospitals on grounds C&D, the grounds which cover ‘social abortions’. What the statistics prove conclusively is that at least a third of all abortions undertaken in NHS hospitals between 16 and 19 weeks gestation are carried out for primarily social reasons and that it was the woman from the ‘pro-abortion lobby’ who was right. Whoever she is/was – I don’t know as I didn’t see the interview and Dorries, showing her usual lack of courtesy, fails to name her or even indicate that she paid enough attention during the interview to have noted her name – she deserves an apology for having, unjustifiably, been called a liar; not that I suspect one will be forthcoming as Dorries still hasn’t bothered to apologise to Ben Goldacre after making demonstrably false accusations about him and members of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.

I’ve seen some lousy and discreditable performances by backbench MPs over the years but I really do think that one would have to go right back to the 1980s and the era of John Carlisle and Peter Bruinvels and their defence of the apartheid regime in South Africa – for which they were dubbed the MPs for Johannesburg East and West – to find such a sustained and disreputable campaign of utter mendacity and contempt for the electorate as that perpetrated by Nadine Dorries in her efforts to cheat her way to a reduction in the upper limit for legal abortions in the UK.

Perhaps the only saving grace in all this is that the longer this goes on the more I’m rapidly accumulating enough material to make for a potentially interesting book on political propaganda and the manner in which the anti-abortion lobby has come to rely on smears, misinformation, outright lies and the promotion of what amounts to little more than a stream of conspiracy theories in an effort to manipulate public opinion.

Who knows, when all this is done an dusted, it a book I may get around to writing that book, if only for the pleasure of tearing Nadine Dorries to pieces once and for all.

  • BD

    I notice that Dorries is asking for the *names* of hospitals which have carried out abortions, not merely the numbers of abortions – this may be a way of sidestepping the rule on Parliamentary Questions which prevents questions on material which is already readily available (in the form of the stats you discuss above), but it might also be a way to target specific health care trusts for future harassment.

    It will be interesting to see what kind of data she gets back – and how she’ll spin it.

  • Dan

    An excellent piece as always. This damn woman must be stopped! She is a menace to rational debate – she should have been forced under parliamentary rules to apologise to the estimable Ben Goldacre for the outrageous remarks she made.

    It’s a bloody disgrace that she gets away with spreading lies based on her rather fantastical non-scientific dogma. I bet she complained to BUPA all the time, whilst taking their shilling, that the number of abortions they carried out for the NHS was a scandal… or perhaps not.

  • Jennie

    Ugh. That woman needs holding to account.

  • cityunslicker

    something we can agree on – she is a self-publicising idiot.

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