The Guardian newspaper is tonight claiming that Prime Minister David Cameron has decided to vote against an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill that would give women a right to pre-abortion counseling that is independent from the abortion industry.
In an article titled ‘Downing Street forces U-turn on Nadine Dorries abortion proposals’ the paper, which has been waging a war of words against the amendment, is claiming that ‘No 10 decides to vote against Tory backbench amendment seeking to stop charities offering abortion counselling’.
But how much of the report is actual fact and how much is just spin?
If we look at what Downing Street has actually said (ie. what is in quote marks rather than the Guardian’s interpretation) we might come to a different conclusion altogether.
So what has Downing Street actually said?
‘The prime minister believes that women should have a choice, a proper choice, not any one selective group of organisations,’ the source said.
Well that is no different from what the government has said already. Dorries and Field had asked that women be given an offer of counselling that was independent from the abortion industry which surely rules out the abortion industry alone (BPAS, MSI etc) doing all the ‘counselling’.
‘The discussions currently under way do not represent any moral shift in the government's approach to abortion as an issue, and there are no changes to the Abortion Act involved.’
Well there never was any change to the Abortion Act proposed, just a new duty for GP consortia to provide independent counselling. The actual text of the amendment adds an additional item to a list of commissioning duties/powers to be conferred on GP consortia by the bill 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.”.’.
In this section, information, advice and counselling is independent where it is provided by either—
(i) a private body that does not itself provide for the termination of pregnancies; or
(ii) a statutory body.”.’.
The Downing Street statement concludes:
‘Instead the concern is to ensure that women, in what is an extremely difficult and often traumatic situation, have access to information and counselling that best meets their needs. We will continue to discuss this with all involved in the debate. We plan to consult widely on these proposals later this year.’
So there is going to be a consultation. Well that is what we all expected anyway.
So summing it all up there is still a commitment to give women a proper choice and not leave them at the mercy of the abortion industry with its ideological and financial vested interests. And there is nothing in the statement that indicates the government is committed to allowing the abortion industry to carry on doing any of the ‘counselling’ that has been the subject of so much criticism.
It seems that Cameron is caught somewhat between a rock and a hard place.
If he caves in to the demands of the abortion industry and liberal elite in order to appease his coalition partners he will be leaving women at the mercy of the abortion industry and will lose the support of much of the right wing of his own party along with the Labour Catholics – both sizeable groups.
But if he votes for the Dorries amendment he will arouse the ire of the Liberal Democrats, trade unions and Labour left.
No wonder he is tempted to kick the thing into the long grass for a few weeks with a consultation. What will he decide? And what will be the next step in this intriguing drama? We will have to wait and see. I suspect there are still some fascinating twists and turns to come.
In the meantime let’s not take the Guardian too seriously. In fact I have just heard that Newsnight has said that Downing Street is denying the story.
The abortion industry and its ideologues are clearly rattled by the events of this year and fear they are losing ground. And rightly so. They are. And it’s not over yet. No, this is just the beginning.