Nadine Dorries is a Fantasist

According to her own pseudoblog, Nadine Dorries is eagerly awaiting the publication of a self-authored article at Comment is Free.

I am awaiting something I have written to appear on Comment is Free and will link when it is up.

What will eventually appear, once its been thoroughly lawyered, seems likely to be closely related to a post published on Iain Dale’s new ‘Dale & Co’ group blog under the title ‘Suzanne Moore is a Fantasist‘. This is a response to an article by Suzanne Moore published on CiF on 8 July 2011 which contains the following argument in relation to Dorries’ campaign activities:

Dorries, as we know, wants to turn back the clock on sex education, preaching abstinence. I won’t say too much about her, as she asked on her blog: “Suzanne Moore. Mad or bad?” A former colleague asked if he could tick both boxes. Suffice to say, Dorries and her allies are pushing an anti-choice agenda on abortion. The discussion on late abortion is always difficult – 147 were carried out last year. The circumstances of these cases are horrible. They often involve domestic abuse, foetal abnormality and mental illness. The British Medical Association supports keeping the limit at 24 weeks. No one pretends this is easy, but late abortion, though rare and traumatic, is one of the propaganda tools of the anti-abortionists. So too are the pictures of the cute babies born with cleft palettes, though often scans picking these up also pick up other, more serious abnormalities. Medical facts are short on the ground here. The line of counselling that Dorries and Field want to promote will tell women that abortion increases their chances of cancer and may lead to infertility. If any of us need to be reminded what happens when you make abortion illegal, we either go back to the time when young women died of septic abortion, or indeed look at Ireland, which merely exports the problems. Twelve women a day from that small country come here for abortions.

We can, I think, safely assume that Dorries has use made of the Guardian’s right to reply policy in order to obtain a slot on CiF and, therefore, that a rebuttal of the article published at Dale & Co will adequately cover any of the substantive points that will appear at the Guardian – if anything appears at all, given that Dorries response is, itself, littered with gross factual errors*.

*What else did you expect?

With that in mind, it’s time to shift into fisk mode…

Readers may be aware of an amendment I have laid down to the Health and Social Care Bill which requires that all women presenting with a crisis pregnancy are offered independent counselling. For the first time ever independent counselling would be offered to women at the point at which they request an abortion. To accept the offer will be entirely the choice of the woman. She can take it or leave it.

Dorries’ amendment – as she knows perfectly well – does not relate exclusively to the provision of ‘independent’ counselling. The text of the amendment, which was tabled – rather appropriately – on April 1st 2011 is a little difficult to follow as it constitutes an addition to an existing list of duties and responsibilities, but the meat of the amendment runs as follows:

after paragraph (f) insert a new paragraph as folllows—

“(g) independent information, advice and [sic] couselling services for women requesting termination of pregnancy to the extent that the consortium considers they will choose to use them.”.’.

Independent, in this context, is then defined in such a way as to exclude any non-statutory organisation which provides for terminations.

The amendment is specifically designed to prevent the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and Marie Stope International (MSI) from providing women with any information on abortion, irrespective of whether a woman seeking a termination wishes to have actual counselling or simply requires advice on the clinical risks associated with abortion having already made their mind up prior to seeking a referral to an abortion service provider.

Dorries is fundamentally and dishonestly misrepresenting both the scope and purpose of her amendment. She is lying, and verifiably so as the text of the amendment is, of course, a matter of public record.

At the present , the only place a woman can receive pre or post abortion counselling, which is paid for by the state, is from an abortion provider who obviously has a vested financial interest in the ultimate decision the woman makes.

No, this is not obvious at all, nor indeed is it truthful.

In regards to the allegation that BPAS and MSI have a ‘vested financial interest’ in whether women who access their services decide to have an abortion or not, the most that can be asserted without supporting evidence is that the potential for a conflict of interest to arise may be said to exist. This is, however, also true in many other areas of the healthcare system, ranging from the obvious – e.g. elective cosmetic surgeries conducted by private clinics – to the easily overlooked; if you ask your local pharamacist to recommend an over-the-counter remedy for a minor ailment can you absolutely sure that their recommendation is not influenced by their ‘inside’ knowledge of the mark-ups on different products?

Moreover, not all potential conflicts of interest are driven by purely financial considerations. At least some of the organisations that would stand to gain from Dorries’ amendment are fundamentally opposed to abortion in all, or almost all, circumstances for religious/moral and ideological reasons and such beliefs – for that’s what they are – are no less capable of giving rise to conflicts of interest than the prospect of payment for services rendered. Pushing BPAS and MSI out of the ‘market’ for pre and post-abortion ‘counselling’ would, of course, also result in some of these organisations being paid for their services by the state, which is, itself, a potential conflict of interest when one considers their motives for supporting Dorries’ proposed amendment.

When advocating a change in public policy, one cannot simply assert that the potential for a conflict of interest exists and expect to be taken seriously. One must also demonstrate, with supporting evidence, that that conflict of interest is, or has been, acted upon and here Dorries has no evidence to present, save for a few anecdotes of markedly dubious provenance.

BPAS, on the other hand, have stated that somewhere between 15% and 20% of the women who seek information and advice on abortion from their pregnancy advice bureaux choose not to go ahead with the procedure – the exact figure will, of course, vary from year to year – and this is, of course, evidence that runs contrary to the allegation that the organisation operates under a conflict of interest when dealing with their clients.

In all this, it has to be remembered that the majority of women who do seek a referral for an abortion neither want nor need counselling either before or after the procedure. Most women will have done all the thinking they need to do before they even seek a referral or contact and organisation like BPAS or MSI. It is only those women who are uncertain as to whether it is right for them to proceed with a termination or who demonstrate significant ambivalence when decided to go ahead with an abortion who may need, or want, the additional support that a professional counsellor can provide, not least because it this small subgroup of women who, on current evidence, are likely to be most at risk of developing mental health problems following an abortion and therefore, most likely to benefit from the provision of post-abortion counselling:

In agreement with previous research in this area,women reported a range of reactions to abortion with a substantial number reporting feelings of grief, guilt, loss and related emotions in response to abortion. Over 85% of women reported at least one of these adverse reactions, with a third reporting five or more of these reactions. However, these negative reactions to abortion were offset by positive responses including relief, happiness and satisfaction, with these responses being notedby over 85% of women. Importantly, on the basis of assessments made at age 30, nearly 90% stated that the decision to have an abortion was the correct one, and only 2% reported that they believed the decision to be incorrect. These findings are consistent with previous research which suggests that the great majority of women do not regret the decision to have an abortion, and the accumulated evidence on this topic does not support recent claims from pro-life advocates that large numbers of women who have abortions regret their decision.

Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J., & Boden, J. M. (2009). Reactions to abortion and subsequent mental health.  British Journal of Psychiatry, 195, 420–426.

Note: This is the 2009 follow-up paper by Fergusson et al. that anti-abortion campaigners studiously ignore because it fails to support their arguments, unlike his 2008 paper which they widely promote in the mistaken belief that it does.

Pre and post-abortion counselling are, in any case, very different issues – if nothing else, one cannot claim that a potential conflict of interest exists in the provision of counselling to women after they have had an abortion and abortion service providers are not the only state-funded source of post abortion counselling for women who do experience significant distress after the procedure. Where that occurs, it occurs relatively infrequently, a referral can be made to the psychiatric services offered by their local NHS Mental Health Trust.

To sum up, Nadine Dorries has failed, thus far, to produce any evidence to support her assertion that abortion service providers, i.e. BPAS and MSI, are actively operating in a manner which directly, or indirectly, exerts an undue and unethical influence on the decisions taken by women who referred into their services with a view to terminating a pregnancy.

Moving on, Dorries go on to make the following claim:

Often, women have to return to the abortion clinic where the procedure took place to receive their post abortion distress counselling. What caring person believes that to be right?

I cannot say that this does not happen, as I’m not aware of the counselling arrangements that are in place in every location in which BPAS and MSI provide abortion services, but what I can say for certain is that this is not the case in Birmingham. Here in the West Midlands, BPAS has offices in the City Centre, from which it provides all of its information, advice and counselling services. Terminations are, however, carried out a small clinic which is discretely situated in a quiet suburb, an arrangement that is infinitely preferable to the facilities provided by most local NHS hospitals, where all Ob-Gyn and maternity services tend to be located is a single specialist unit.

It is, I’m afraid, still too often the case that women being admitted to hospital in the throes of having a miscarriage are admitted to units of this kind, which can often mean that they are both wheeled into the unit past a gaggle of heavily pregnant women who’ve snuck outside for a crafty fag and that they are place onto wards that are in earshot of the unit’s maternity facilities. What caring person would believe that to be right, and yet that is the position at many NHs hospitals.

A clear physical separatation of information and counselling services from clinical services is clearly desirable but, of itself, this provides no justification whatsoever for Dorries’ legislative assault on BPAS and MSI. That she deploys this argument at all merely demonstrates just how threadbare her arguments really are.

Every objection, from whatever quarter, has been political. I am still waiting for one single objection rooted in fact and truth to be raised. And there’s the rub. There isn’t one, there can’t be, because if you care about the welfare of women the amendment is unarguable.

On the contrary, it is Dorries who has provided no facts and no evidence here and it Dorries who has resorted to the use of untruths and misrepresentation to promote her campaign from start to finish. Indeed, as I’ve already clearly demonstrated – with documentary evidence – her opening statement in this article is untruthful and clearly misrepresents the purpose and objectives of both her campaign and the amendment she put forward in parliament.

It is also necessary because abortion clinics operated by the second largest abortion provider in the country, BPAS, deploy soft marketing techniques which amount to an abuse of the women who walk into their clinics who are vulnerable and need help. A technique which calms a distressed woman by reassuring her ‘don’t worry, you may be upset but three out of four women of your age have done this’  is deployed to  ensure  women and young girls reach the ‘right’ decision and  the clinic receives  its payment for the abortion and  counselling.

And the evidence for this assertion is to be found where, exactly?

Nowhere that I can see.

The fact of the matter is that I can easily produce and evidence numerous instances in which Dorries and her supporters have made untruthful and misleading statements in support of their efforts to disabuse women of the right to obtain a safe, legal, abortion. Just use the search box here and look for posts referring either to ‘Dorries’ or ‘Abortion’ and you’ll very quickly see what I mean.

Oh, and in a moment, I’ll show you yet another lie – with the evidence which proves Dorries wrong – but before we get to that we need to skip past the next, entirely irrelevant statement.

I know an elderly lady who used to run a wine shop in Liverpool and I once laughed with her that this was ironic as I had never seen her touch a drop of wine.” It’s easy”, she replied,  “when they ask ‘is this one nice?’ I say, I don’t know, but we sell a lot if it and they always buy it.” Comfort marketing has  been around for years,  but  the application to the decision making process of a vulnerable woman is unethical and intended to secure the bottom line.

It cannot be said often enough that the plural of anecdote is not data, least of all when the anecdote is a complete non-sequitur – and now let’s get back to business of lying.

BPAS may be a charity, but the £200k financial package for the Chief Executive has to be paid for somehow.

Sorry?

I have BPAS’s most recent published account in front of me, right now – and you can view them for yourself via the Charity Commission in the notes to the financial statements on page 21 (page 23 of the pdf document) under the heading ‘Staff Costs’. The information you’re looking for runs as follows:

The number of employees earning over £60,000 p/a, excluding pension contribution was:

£60,001-£70,000….. 1 (2010) – 2 (2009)

£70,001-£80,000….. 2 (2010) – 2 (2009)

£80,001-£90,000….. 2 (2010) – 2 (2009)

£90,001-£100,000….. 1 (2010) – 0 (2009)

£100,001-£110,000….. 1 (2010) – 0 (2009)

£110,001-£120,000….. 1 (2010) – 0 (2009)

Pension contributions for these staff amounted to £21,810.

I’ve retabulated the data to save mucking about with HTML tables but as you’ll clearly see, the financial package for BPAS’s Chief Executive runs to a salary package in the £110,001 to £120,000 range plus a share of the £21,810 paid in pension contributions, a figure which has to be divided between eight employees and adjusted for difference in basic salary. Although we can’t put an exact figure to the financial package that Ann Furedi receives as BPAS Chief Executive, what we can say is that its considerably less than the £200,000 figure claimed by Dorries, unless she can produce evidence to show that BPAS are in the habit of buying Furedi an S-Class Mercedes S500L (with AMG sport pack) every year.

No? Didn’t think so…

Suzanne Moore wrote an article last Friday which was so riddled with fiction I feel compelled to respond.  Suzanne has form. I once asked was she mad or just bad? She referred to this in her article and boasted that a former colleague asked if he could tick both boxes.  I rest my case. I originally asked this question due to the fact that she appears to exist in a fantasy world of her own creation. Here’s a few examples:

Dorries, as we know, wants to turn back the clock on sex education” I am not quite sure how wanting to introduce relationship counselling into sex education  quite adds up to turning the clock back.

Dorries’ bill has yet to be published but if it follows the line taken in her speech to the House of Commons then it will seek promote abstinence and not relationship counselling or comprehensive sex and relationships education. For that, we need to turn to a different 10 minute rule bill, as presented by Chris Bryant, the text of which has been published. It is this bill that provides for relationships education in schools, and if Dorries were genuinely concerned for anything other than covertly promoting a failed religious agenda, she’d be backing Chris Bryant not putting up a ridiculous bill of her own.

“Dorries and her allies are pushing an anti-choice agenda on abortion”.  We are pushing for the opposite, we want more choice by enabling women to seek help from independent sources and not those tied up in financial contracts.

As you’ll see in a moment, the evidence speaks for itself.

“The line of counseling that Dorries and Field want to promote will tell women that abortion increases their chances of cancer and may lead to infertility.” Have I said that? Where? The format of the counselling will be approved by a professional organisation such as the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists.

I’ll come back to the issue of the BACP’s role in all this in a future post. Suffice to say, for now, that I have a couple of emails in my possession which indicate that all is not as Dorries would like it to appear.

If any of us need to be reminded what happens when you make abortion illegal..  Why would anyone imply that I want to make abortion illegal? I fully support quick and easy access to abortion. This is not reflected by this government, which is seeking to push through these anti-choice counselling proposals without legislation or debate. The amendment will be on the face of the bill, debated and a  vote. Hello in there Suzanne, are you listening?

Why would anyone imply that Dorries wants to make abortion illegal?

It’s not as if Dorries’ has a history of peddling bone-headed anti abortion propaganda, is it..?

It’s not as if Dorries’ has been covertly working with Christian fundamentalists.

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Or fronting for a network of anti-abortion organisations.

And, of course, there’s no evidence whatsoever that that network would seek to make abortion illegal in all circumstances, including rape, foetal abnormality and where there is a serious risk to the life of the mother.

Just like there’s no evidence of Dorries using lies and misrepresentation to promote her campaign?

Suzanne Moore, after fantasising about my intentions then moves on to paint a dark and depressing picture of adoption citing a touching anecdote of her time in a maternity hospital bed and witnessing a new mother grieve on her third day post delivery for a baby she had once had and given up for adoption.

I will refrain from making any detailed comment about the third day ‘baby blues’ syndrome and deal with the substance. Yes, that woman may have grieved for the baby she once gave up for adoption and obviously, that wasn’t the right thing for her to have done as she was living with the emotional consequences. However, many, many women who abort go through the same distress. Meet Tanya, Suzanne, and if you want to I can introduce you to a different Tanya every day of the year.

Yes, do meet the members of ‘Forsaken’ and hear what they have to say about abortion and how Dorries describes their book:

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about Forsaken, a charity offering abortion counselling in Taunton; the charity has published a book, also called Forsaken, which was referenced by Nadine Dorries in a recent Parliamentary debate:

…I shall finish by mentioning a book which is to be launched this month. It is published by the charity Forsaken, which is neither pro-life nor pro-choice: it is pro-women. For two years, the charity has put together the stories of women suffering from post-abortion syndrome. Reading the book is so heart-wrenching that we just want to reach out and take their pain away, but we cannot. There is no going back. We cannot make it better; abortion is a procedure to end life-it is final.

Having seen the book, there is no way that it can be described as ”neither pro-life nor pro-choice” - it is blatantly anti-abortion, with two very obvious aims: (a) to make women contemplating abortion feel that they shouldn’t do it; and (b) to persuade women who have had abortions to convert to Christianity. The stories abound with sentences such as “As I prayed, I felt a weight lifted from me”… “I had a new calling in my life – God”… “My son is in the arms of God”… “God has forgiven me, that’s his promise to us all”… “Tears of joy rolled down my cheeks as I realised that they forgave me and so did Jesus”. Interspersed are poems, including one in which a fetus remarks on how the womb is “so wonderfully designed by my Creator”. There’s also a lengthy New Testament quote, from 1 Timothy 1:12-17:

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent (wo) man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Remember, Dorries considered this organisation to be ‘neither pro-choice nor pro-life’.

Because the baby hasn’t made the passage down the birth canal doesn’t make the loss any less or the distress any less acute. To many, the aborted baby they had felt kicking  was still their baby and as hard as it may be for someone as ‘liberated’ as Suzanne claims to be to understand, to some women, knowing that they had given their baby life and a desperate couple a family would have been much easier to live with than the lifelong knowledge that they ended their baby’s life.  The option of adoption provides a degree of comfort which the terminal finality of abortion lacks.

Does adoption really provide a ‘degree of comfort’ to women who give up their offspring?

This article reports the findings of a study commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation which examined the experiences and needs of birth mothers who relinquished a child for adoption. Historically, birth mothers have been neglected in the British literature; their experience is considered to have ended at the time of placement. This research however, indicates the long-term implications of relinquishment are severe—particularly in relation to mental health. They demand that the complexity and uniqueness of relinquishment as a form of loss be more fully understood, birth mothers’ reactions to those experiences are not pathologized and professionals learn to respond more positively. GP’s in particular need to develop a more sensitive understanding of their needs and in so doing could prevent the medicalization of some birth mothers.

This is the adoption sector’s dirty little secret – almost no one gives a toss about what happens to the ‘birth mother’ after they’ve given up their child for adoption despite the evidence that giving up a child for adoption is a traumatic experience with long term consequences for the mental health of women, and you certainly won’t see dmanding that adoption agencies be prevented from ‘counselling’ pregnant women about adoption.

At the very end of her article Suzanne states ‘I want people to be given unbiased information’. Well, thank you Suzanne, you put the cats down and got there in the end.  So do I, which is exactly what this amendment is about. Providing choice, removing bias, and making sure that only professionals who have no financial gain to be made from the ultimate decision making process get anywhere near a woman during the most vulnerable days of her life.

Liar.

There is no other word to describe Dorries’s systematic use of untruths and misrepresentations throughout this article – although ‘bullshit’ is good and perhaps more closely reflects Dorries’ total disregard for the truth value of her statements.

As mentioned at the outset, I suspect that this article by Dorries is the one she hopes CiF will publish under its right of reply policy. I actually think that there’s little chance of it appearing at the Guardian given the extent to which its based on untruths and misrepresentations – the Guardian’s lawyers are not so sloppy as to allow such blatant and, in place, potentially libellous falsehoods through the editorial system and, stripped of its bullshit, the article would contain almost nothing by way of actual content beyond the quotations taken from Suzanne Moore’s original article.