MPs have rejected Nadine Dorries’ bid to change the law on abortion counselling for women by 368 votes to 118.
During the debate, Dorries continued to use discredited ‘facts’, unsubstantiated anecdotes and emotional statements, brushing off challenges from MPs who are also doctors and might be presumed to know what they're talking about.
She portrayed herself as a valiant David struggling alone against the well-funded Goliath of the left-wing media and Abortion Rights. At one point, she even claimed ‘I’m broke’. She allowed interventions from as many supporters as she could, some of them vehemently anti-abortion, despite claiming that she isn't and that the debate wasn't about abortion in principle. She also still persistently denied that any knowledge of how Right To Know are funded.
At one point, Dorries bemoaned the fact that she had lost Cameron's initial support for her amendments. She blamed Dr Evan Harris, saying that he is blackmailing the Prime Minister and the Government. At this point, there was uproar in the House. It will be interesting to see if she dares to repeat this potential libel outside the safety of parliamentary privilege. Stewart Jackson MP described Julian Huppert MP as 'Dr Evan Harris' vicar on earth'. Evan will now grow a moustache to twirl in a fiendish way, with any luck.
She didn't stand unchallenged, however. There were MPs who spoke strongly against her and Diane Abbott said 'this is a shoddy, ill-conceived attempt to present non-facts... the opposite of evidence-based policy making'. So it's not just men who oppose you, Nadine.
Julian Huppert pointed out that the current system works well and that what is needed to reduce abortion numbers is better access to contraception and better SRE (sex education) for both boys and girls. It's not known if Evan was hiding under the seat with his hand up Huppert's back at that point although it might be worth asking Huppert so say 'bottle of beer' as a test.
Health Minister Ann Milton ended the 90 minute debate, commenting ‘the amendments won't work for women’. However, she also said that the Government supports the ‘spirit of amendments’; there will be a consultation and another vote in Parliament – so there is yet more work for campaigners to do.
Dorries has claimed that she ‘won the war’ and will continue the fight both for this and for a reduction of the upper time limit on abortions. Like the Terminator, she will be back. Unlike the Terminator, she won't come back reprogrammed as a good guy. She is relentless and, as she has apparently no political ambition, there is little her party can do to restrain her. Expect her tactics to get even more anecdotal, emotive and evidence-free.
She is also still blaming the LibDems, saying on her blog (with no sense of irony) that ‘politics yesterday was certainly at its dirtiest and most complex’.
The amendments were originally tabled by Dorries and Frank Field MP. He pointed out during the debate that his name had somehow been left off them and added that he would not now be supporting her. Field also said 'We should be more concerned with facts, and less concerned with trying to put our sticky fingers into other people’s souls and pronouncing that they have failed'.
He asked Dorries to drop the amendments but she refused so the House divided.
Members voting in support included Cabinet Ministers Iain Duncan Smith, Liam Fox and Owen Paterson while George Osborne, Nick Clegg, both Milibands, William Hague, Ed Balls and Ken Clarke voted against the amendment. David Cameron was not present. You can read the full division list to see how your MP voted here.
One effect of the anti-abortion lobby is that the other side fall over themselves to say they are not pro-abortion but pro-choice. No one wants to be heard saying abortion is a good thing. But why not? It's not an easy thing, it's not anyone's ambition to have one but, if you need one, it's the only choice. For me, it's a good thing that abortion exists, that it's legal, affordable, safe and relatively freely available. So in that sense, I am pro-abortion in the same way that I am pro assisted dying.