Et Tu Soubry

You can always rely on ConHome to offer Nadine Dorries a platform from which to exercise her butthurt.

Nadine Dorries MP: Anna Soubry MP has failed vulnerable women by dropping consultation on independent abortion counselling

Despite being called every name under the sun and having my motives questioned at every turn, I have been consistently clear about the changes I would like to see to the UK abortion laws. I want a lower legal limit at which terminations can be carried out. My preference is for the limit to be lowered from 24 to 20 weeks and, in addition, every woman facing a crisis pregnancy to receive a non-compulsory offer of independent counselling.

As regards Dorries’s preferences, this screenshot, which was originally taken from the comments under an article by Nadine Dorries at the Spectator’s Coffee House group blog in October 2007, cannot be publicised too widely.

As for her non-compulsory offer of independent counselling, if we head all the way back to 31st October 2006 we find Dorries seeking leave to introduce a bill to:

… reduce the time limit for legal termination of pregnancy from 24 to 21 weeks;

to introduce a cooling off period after the first point of contact with a medical practitioner about a termination;

to require the provision of counselling about the medical risk of, and about matters relating to, termination and carrying a pregnancy to term as a condition of informed consent to termination;

to enable the time period from the end of the cooling off period to the date of termination to be reduced;

and for connected purposes.

That, according the published text of the bill, would be a mandatory seven day ‘cooling-off’ period and mandatory counselling from a registered medical practitioner or health visitor.

Lest we also forget, there was rather more to the amendments that Dorries sought to shoehorn into the Health and Social Care Bill that just a non-compulsory offer of independent counselling, including a revenge attack on the position of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

In response to the debate about my amendment to the (then) Health and Social Care Bill in September 2011, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, Anne Milton MP stated that, “We also want to consult widely and publicly as part of our proposals to help us ensure that we really improve services for women at what we know is an extremely difficult time in their lives. We need to consult the public; indeed, we need to consult the women about whom we are talking.”

With the benefit of hindsight, there are now two ways of looking at that consultation – as a cynical attempt to sneak at least some aspects of Dorries’ amendments through via the back door in knowledge that her amendment had little prospect of being adopted by the House, which is what many on the pro-choice side of the debate feared, or as a sop to Dorries’ badly bruised ego, a small measure of compensation for the humiliating and very public manner in which the legs were kicked out from under her amendments in the main chamber of the House.

Dorries should have taken the box rather than trying to double down.

It was a consultation that no one other than Dorries and the anti-abortion lobby, particularly those who stood to gain materially for any changes, wanted or even considered necessary and it’s cancellation is only to be welcomed by anyone who takes the view that NHS Policy should be based on the best available evidence.

Since that time a Government reshuffle has replaced Anne Milton with Anna Soubry MP. The Department for Health and the wider Government are the poorer for this change. Yesterday morning, responding to my Westminster Hall debate on lowering the legal limit, Anna Soubry reneged on the promise given by Anne Milton and threw out the counselling consultation.

In fact Soubry said, “I can see no purpose in a consultation, because we do not intend to change either the law or the guidelines.” So once again a member of the feminist elite has taken it upon herself to make the decision for other women, many of whom will be disadvantaged, less educated and less able to have their voice heard. Women may want counselling, but Minister Soubry has decided both that they cannot have it and they won’t even be asked if they want it. When her boss Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was asked his personal view on abortion, he repeated that he would like to see the legal limit reduced to 12 weeks. He is, however, a professional and quite capable of separating his personal views from his professional responsibilities. If only the same could be said of Ms Soubry. Instead, she has allowed her professional stance to be influenced by her personal background as an aggressive and lifelong pro-choice activist.

A member of feminist elite and a life-long pro-choice activist? I’m rather warming to Soubry even if she is also a lifelong Tory who was, at one time, the only Conservative member of the NUS Executive.

Actually, as I come from the Midlands I remember Soubry pretty well from her time as a local journalist, news presenter and, on a number of occasions, as the host of late-night Kilroy-style audience discussion show (i.e. bearpit) and, as I recall, on a scale from Dimbleby (gently persistent) to Paxman (in your face straight away if you try bullshitting him) Soubry weighed in a long way towards the Paxman end of the spectrum, which is perhaps only what you’d expect from someone who graduated with a degree in law and who left journalism in 1995/6 after being called to the Bar.

If Dorries wants to pick a fight with someone at the Department of Health over the cancellation of this consultation then I’d suggest that she steers well clear of Anna Soubry and – if you’ll excuse the analogy, which is intended to be deliberately ironic – avoid any suggestion of settling their differences by way of ‘handbags at dawn’ as you can more or less guarantee that Soubry’s  handbag of choice would be packing a concealed house brick.

Ms Soubry appears not to even understand the difference between commissioning health care services for women in the form of counselling and abortion provision. To inappropriately have announced the dumping of the counselling consultation in the middle of a debate on abortion limits highlighted this very fact.

On the contrary, I suspect Soubry understands the difference perfectly well, well enough to understand that the ‘independence’ of pre-abortion counselling provision is best secured by ensuring that counsellors operate within an rigorous code of professional ethics to guidelines laid down by the Royal Colleges of Medicine based on the best current clinical and scientific evidence rather than by directing them to services provided by agenda-driven anti-choice organisation that have a long track record of promoting false and misleading information about abortion and, in the worst cases, subjecting women to emotional blackmail and open religious proselytizing in an effort to direct them away from choosing to terminate a pregnancy.

The doctor’s union, the BMA do however and they recently voted that women should have access to independent counselling. Ms Soubry makes the argument that we should listen to one set of doctors when it comes to upper limits, but ignore them on another issue – the issue of counselling.

No they didn’t.

What the BMA voted for was a motion backing non-directive counselling by, as the organisation itself reported, a vote on independent counselling was set aside and the vote, itself, was non-binding and did not alter the policy of the BMA.

All women considering an abortion should have access to non-directive counselling, the meeting agreed.

However, doctors and medical students set aside a call for women to be able to access counselling that is independent of the abortion provider.

They noted the suggestion but stopped short of adopting it as policy. Yorkshire GP Mark Pickering said he had proposed the statement to increase choices for women considering terminations.

One thing that Dorries has never yet managed to come to term with is the fact that, if you’re prolific bullshitter, Google is not your friend.

The announcement that a consultation would take place was made by former nurse, Anne Milton, in the Chamber and to the House. Anne Milton understood the difference between abortion and commissioning support services.

This is the same Anne Milton who, shortly after becoming Health Minister, responded to an adjournment debate speech given by Parliament’s resident MP for Quackery North and Bullshit Pseudoscience, David Tredinnick, with:

My hon. Friend may be interested to know that although I trained as a nurse and worked in the NHS for 25 years in conventional medicine, my grandmother trained at the homeopathic hospital in London, and was herself a homeopathic nurse. Later, she became a Christian Scientist. I am therefore not without my own roots in alternative therapies. My hon. Friend may also be interested to know that my grandmother never, until her death at the age of 89, took any conventional medicine.

Words fail.

Ms Soubry’s decision to drop the consultation, after months of hard work, should also have been made to the House, after the members of the committee had been informed.  Instead, she chose to drop the bombshell in a Westminster Hall debate. That was un-professional and inappropriate.

And it spared Dorries the full humiliation of a Ministerial statement in the main chamber of the House – she really should learn to a bit more thankful for small mercies. Oh, and the Spelling Police have called to remind everyone that there’s no hyphen in ‘unprofessional’ either

Unfortunately, people like Ms Soubry in positions of power and influence think all women are exactly as they are. Well educated, articulate and comfortably off. The young woman who aborts at twenty four weeks because she hoped to get past the twenty four week stage and stand up to the coercion, but gave in as her partner told her he would ‘beat the baby out of her is she didn’t abort’  is of no consequence. She distorts the politically correct ideological argument. She doesn’t fit the ‘right on’ mantra that all women know exactly what they are doing when they ask for an abortion. Neither does the Asian girl marched into a clinic by two male family members. Or the sixteen year old who lives with her parents who speak on her behalf, hiding the fact that she is terrified.

I will not rehearse the abortion arguments on here however. Soubry, in her announcement yesterday will not impact those who have support and are strong and articulate. The people she failed will be the vulnerable.

Nadine Dorries, champion of the weak and vulnerable???

No, as usual, she’ll say absolutely anything if she thinks it might help her get her own way

The offhand manner and callous words used by Soubry to jettison the abortion counselling consultation tell us a great deal about her as a Minister. She is deeply unprofessional in allowing her personal views to have such an effect on policy. Such lack of impartiality will be carried through in all aspects of her work and there must be serious questions now about what else she has done in the few weeks since being appointed that adheres to her personal agenda rather than implementing Government policy.

Actually, I rather suspect that the curt manner in which Soubry delivered her bombshell reflects nothing too much more than the fact that Dorries’s antic have long since exhausted the patience of the Tory top brass with her pig-headed refusal to take the hint and drop the subject of abortion. Even a novice Parliamentary Kremlinologist cannot have failed to see the subtext of Soubry’s statement:

Which part of ‘NO!’ do you not understand?

As usual, the answer would appear to be ‘All of it’.

Ms Soubry has form. One of her first comments as a Minister was to make sympathetic noises about the right-to-die. You wouldn’t want her as a friend, when her neighbour Andrew Mitchell, was going through his toughest time, she stuck the boot in during her appearance on Any Questions.

Unless Dorries knows something about Soubry’s personal living arrangements that we don’t, her grasp of geography seems to be a bit shaky. Soubry is the MP for Broxtowe in Nottinghamshire, some 47 miles from Mitchell’s constituency of Sutton Coldfield (which he’s represented since 2001) all of which makes popping round to borrow a cup of sugar a bit onerous.

Mitchell was, at one time, MP for Gedling in Nottinghamshire, a seat he lost at the 1997 General Election,  so it may be that that’s the cause of Dorries’ obvious confusion, even if its still not, strictly speaking, a neighbouring seat.

Still, it’s not that unusual to see Dorries in a state of confusion over the location of an MPs constituency home, is it.

What I will do next is to write to the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary to ask why Ms Soubry was allowed to act with such bad manners and disregard for all those in Parliament who worked towards the goal of consulting the experts on providing additional help to women? Why have the government – after declaring an intention to help vulnerable women – performed yet another U turn and decided that they won’t after all?

There are, in life, some questions that are best left unasked and I suspect that these may well be amongst them as it’s fairly certain that Dorries is not going to like any answers she gets – although if Cameron would like my advice, STFU should cover it nicely.

There were some very angry MPs in the Commons yesterday and if Ms Soubry thinks that she has hear the last of it, she had better think again.

That there is fighting talk… Cage match, anyone???

My money’s on Anna Soubry- anyone care to offer odds on a first round submission by triangle choke?

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  • Richard Morris

    Andrew Mitchell doesn’t actually live in his constituency so the point is even more confusing.

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  • surreptitiousevil

    I’m confused as to how this ‘independent counselling’ is going to help the woman with the abusive spouse, the Asian girl or the 16 year old? Okay, the first might get her abortion through a messy beating as opposed to proper surgery, but the other two are going to get railroaded through any system, we set up, aren’t they?