It couldn’t happen here, could it?

Chip, chip, chippity chip. That’s the steady sound of American legislatures, lawyers, and lobbying groups taking their chisels to what should be solid stone rights, and setting to work eroding them. We’re talking, of course, about abortion and procreative choice: the right to have an abortion; the right to have one freely, unmolested by the state, without shame or guilt; and more generally, the right to choose not only whether to bear a child, but also how to approach one’s own pregnancy and childbirth.

You can now hear an echo of that chipping sound in the UK. Quietly, quite similar tactics are being adopted, not just by protest groups (as noted by Jender here), but also by politicians. The Prime Minister has a consistent record of calling for the time limit on abortions to be reduced. This familiar ploy to curtail the availability of abortion failed in a Commons vote in 2008, but only by 71 votes. Then there’s the astonishing decision (noted by Jore on the Jender thread just mentioned) to give the pro-abstinence, anti-abortion group LIFE a place on the Sexual Health and HIV advisory panel. And finally, the thing that prompted me to write a quick post, the nasty little piece of legislation mentioned here, seven paragraphs down:

an amendment to the health and social care bill that would create a new precondition for women having an abortion to receive advice and counselling from an organisation that does not carry out terminations.

It will be no surprise to anyone familiar with the UK’s politics that Nadine Dorries is responsible for this reprehensible suggestion, along with the former Labour minister Frank Field. It’s not clear just how much chance this amendment has of making it on to the statute books; probably, thankfully, not too large a chance. There’s still a long way to go before the UK forces women to pay for and look at an ultrasound prior to having an abortion. Even so… chip, chip, chip.


12 thoughts on “It couldn’t happen here, could it?

  1. Quite — that’s why I thought it worth mentioning. I do find myself, when teaching this stuff in the US, being rather blasé about the comparable situation in the UK, and it really isn’t a situation to be blasé about.

  2. The Dorries/Field amendment only guarantees women access to independent counselling/advice – it doesn’t require them to go through it.

  3. Paul, some of the press is reporting the counseling as required. It would be great if you could add in some source for your view that is convincing.

  4. As above, Right to Know certainly says it’s that. Finding your way through the meaning of amendments to bills isn’t the easiest thing. There does appear to be a typo on the amendment though…

  5. There’s little prospect of the UK requiring human mothers to look at an ultrasound prior to aborting, given the NHS’ drastic shortage of sonographers. Possibly for mother elephants NHS could get the scans scheduled in time.

  6. Paul, Monkey: OK, thanks. It does seem that the amendment is not quite as bad as was reported. It appears to compel “a commissioning consortium” (of GPs?) to make available, “to such extent as it considers necessary”, “independent information, advice and couselling [sic] services for women requesting termination of pregnancy to the extent that the consortium considers they will choose to use them”. So there’s a fair amount of leeway there to allow individual consortia to not bother with the counselling and so on. On the other hand, there’s an equal amount of leeway for them to hammer a strong anti-abortion message if they so choose. I’m not sure we’re out of the woods yet.

  7. Certainly not – I think vigilance is always necessary, thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  8. Nadine Dorries brought up abortion rates, casually, in her promotion of some rather under-thought-out and underdeveloped bill to limit or prevent the ‘sexualisation’ of children in the UK. The bill aims to do something or other about ‘lads’ magazines and perfume adverts that are located near to schools – ban them or censor them or something. (A related op ed is here: ).

    Dorries made some sort of link (on the BBC radio 4 ‘Today’ programme) between this stuff and the abortion rate, which she took to be high or rising. All unsubstantiated stuff, no clear links involved (causal or otherwise), but another opportunity for her to push her ‘abstinence works’ agenda into what’s becoming a clear tactic for her, politically. By confusing discussion of one issue (vis. whether young people are ‘sexualised’ early / earlier or not) with another (whether particular abortion rates could ever be tolerable), she hopes to win support for a policy that’s been clearly proven to be unsuccessful.

    Dorries manages to say something provocative on about a weekly basis, and seems to be guaranteed a platform to spread this stuff. She’s definitely worthy of vigilance! There’s one blog here ( ) which keeps tabs on her misinformation, and another way to counter her fiction with facts here ( ).

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