Today, two very different but inextricably linked news stories caught my eye.
In the first, I find (via The f-word) that Nadine Dorries has tabled another amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill that would, if accepted, reduce the upper time limit for abortions to twenty weeks. Dorries is seemingly taking a leaf out of the European Union’s book. She didn’t get the answer she wanted last time, so she’ll keep right on asking the same question over and over again until she gets the answer she wants.
Meanwhile, about 1300 miles away in Bucharest, a Romanian government committee will decide today whether to allow an 11 year girl, who was raped by her 19 year old uncle, to travel to the UK for an abortion.
The uncle has, not unsurprisingly, ‘disappeared’.
Under Romanian law, abortion is legal up to 14 weeks gestation, after which it can be carried out only in the mother’s health is at serious risk. The girl and her family only discovered that she was pregnant earlier this month, after her parents took her to see a doctor thinking that she was unwell, too late to obtain an abortion in her home country.
The family are now seeking leave to bring the girl to the UK, where she can obtain an abortion at up to 24 weeks gestation on the agreement of two doctors that continuation of the pregnancy would place the mother at significant risk of harm to her mental and/or physical health. Her case has already been heard by two Romanian courts, each of which gave a contradictory ruling; one ruled that the should be allowed to come to the UK. the other that she should give birth. In an interesting twist, her family has the official support of the Romanian Orthodox Church, which has sensibly taken the view that this case is ‘”an exceptional situation which must be treated in an exceptional manner and the family is the only one to take this decision”. Nevertheless, the Independent are reporting that 20 ‘church groups’ have threatened to press criminal charges if the child is permitted to have an abortion in Romania due to her exceptional situation and that these same groups are demanding that the government committee ban the girl from travelling to UK.
So much for ‘Christian compassion’.
The more observant amongst you will have already noticed that it is only because UK has some of the most liberal and humane abortion laws in Europe that this family has a choice and this 11 year old girl has the possibility of putting this episode behind her and returning to carry on with a, hopefully, normal childhood/adolescence, a choice that Nadine Dorries is attempting to take away.
The abortion debate is one that presents no easy answers, least of all when exceptional cases such as this one arise, and its for that reason that the only right and humane way in which the UK’s abortion laws should be framed in a manner which affords pregnant women the maximum possible opportunity to make a positive choice about their future, whatever that choice may be.
By way of complete contrast, Dorries, who is perhaps best described as displaying a pathological ‘foetus fetish’, has had, throughout her campaign, little or nothing to say on the subject of women other than to characterise those who find themselves unintentionally pregnant as feckless and irresponsible and those who present late for abortion as being guilty of mere prevarication.
She is, in addition to being a liar and a hypocrite, a self-righteous, self-absorbed misogynist and a public disgrace, one who, if she had any sense of shame at her conduct over the last few months or any genuine compassion or regard for anyone other than herself, would do the decent thing and withdraw this latest amendment.