It’s election time, and disappointingly, David Cameron has shot out of the gates seeking to rally his right-wing Christian base with a promise to lower the abortion limit to 20 or 22 weeks.
The Conservatives had their chance to make their scientific and political case on this in 2008 and they blew it.
They not only blew the vote, they exploded a dirty great hole in the side of their shiny new facade, as the following examples will show…
David Cameron allowed Nadine Dorries to run with the ball on her 2008 ‘Alive & Kicking’ campaign, and that MP used as her ‘evidence’ several dubious claims about events she claimed to witness as a nurse, including this one repeated today by Christian Concern for our Nation (1, 2):
At the time of the 2008 vote, former nurse Nadine Dorries, now MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, told fellow MPs how she had held a foetus that gasped for breath and took seven minutes to die after a botched abortion. Ms Dorries said: ‘What I thought we were committing that day was murder.’ (source)
Nadine Dorries has a long track record of relying on apocryphal evidence to elicit an emotional response in her favour (see suicide/expenses for her most famous example to date), so I have reason to doubt this event ever really happened as described to begin with. Further, my lead example not only shows Nadine Dorries using apocryphal evidence during the abortion debate, but reveals an alarming level of ignorance about maternal medicine and basic human biology that should cast doubt on the specifics of any medical procedure Dorries claims to have witnessed:
Hand of Hope
In this post on her pretend-blog during the abortion debate (and on the main campaign website) Nadine Dorries presented this image of a foetus ‘reaching’ out of the womb as evidence that life begins earlier than science says it does. When it was put to her that the attending surgeon’s version of events completely contradicted those of her witness (the photographer who describes the event as “God’s message to the world”) Dorries, in a further post laughingly titled ‘Hand of Truth’, none-too-subtly implied that the doctor changed his story because feared violent pro-choice lobbyists (!), showed complete ignorance of how pregnancy works and what a placenta does, and claimed that the “jiggered edges” of what she described as a “tear in the uterus” most likely resulted from a “hand unexpectedly thrust out”… by a 21 week old foetus.
I’ve heard some MPs talk bullshit in my time, but the idea that a 21-week-old foetus could punch its way out of the womb (with or without a starting incision) reached new heights for me.
MPs really don’t like being called on this, but Nadine Dorries clearly misled the House when she made this claim:
“The public do not say that they want the limit to come down from 24 weeks; the public – including three quarters of women – say that they want 20 weeks. They specify what they want.” – Nadine Dorries (source)
“Three quarters of women” did no such thing. Nadine Dorries either completely misunderstood the data or (more likely in my experience) deliberately misrepresented it in order to give the false impression that she enjoyed a popular mandate. As the raw poll data showed, it wasn’t 75% of women specifying 20 weeks, but 15%, and then only because it was fed to them as an option. After literally inviting scrutiny of her assertions in the House, Dorries has never returned to this point.
Full post: Bloggerheads – Nadine Dorries: unbelievable
Laws Drafted by Fundamentalists
Recently Dorries insisted that religion should be kept out of Parliament… but only because she feared it might lead to sharia law:
While the votes may come from secular Tories, the ringleaders of any abortion-tightening attempt will be Christians. In 2008, when parliament was debating embryology, Nadine Dorries, a high-profile backbench Tory MP, led the charge against abortion – and says she is informed by her Christianity (though “if you mention God in an argument in the UK, you lose,” she says). One leading anti-abortion activist noted that behind the scenes the Christian Medical Fellowship and the Lawyers Christian Fellowship were “absolutely indispensable. They did most of the heavy lifting on research. But we could never acknowledge their role. Never. People would never take us seriously again.” (Dorries says another reason she avoids talking about faith in parliament is out of fear it will set a precedent by which Muslim MPs could express – and impose – theirs. “There is no place for sharia law in Britain and as politicians we have to be aware and vigilant to ensure that we don’t ease or facilitate its acceptance,” she says.) (source)
Obvious bias/bigotry aside, how does Nadine Dorries explain/justify her attempts to introduce into law legislation worded by Christian fundamentalists? Does she now think she was wrong* to do so, or does she think it’s OK when it’s ‘our’ fundamentalists?
(*Going by the FT article, I suspect she thinks it’s fine and dandy to inject some Christian fundamentalism into law, just so long as everybody keeps their head down and nobody finds out about it.)
David Cameron did not express any doubt or disquiet about the above or any of the case that Nadine Dorries put forward during or after the abortion debate. If anything, he praised her efforts. Repeatedly.
David Cameron either thinks us to be weak-minded fools, or he is one himself.
How might we discover which is closer to the truth?
Well, next time David Cameron brings the abortion issue up, ask him what percentage of women specify a preference for 20 weeks…. or if he really thinks a human foetus can punch its way out of the womb.
Oh, and you may also want to ask if he thinks it’s right to attempt to introduce legislation worded by fundamentalists, because that’s exactly what happened the last time the Conservatives sought to change the laws governing abortion.