The new cuddly Tories are to let the mask slip a little on Tuesday with an attempt to make it significantly harder for woman to have an abortion. Nadine Dorries, a 2005 intake Tory, is so determined to push the restrictive law through that she has apparently hired a PR firm to help sell the proposals. Presumably, she hasn’t paid for the PR firm herself, which begs the question where the cash comes from.
Dorries’ Bill – which has no real chance of becoming law – would do two things. First, it would reduce the term limit at which a foetus can be aborted from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. Second, it would introduce a compulsory “10 day delay” period, meaning that women would be forced to wait until later in their pregnancy to act on a decision they have already made – a decision which has to be approved by two doctors.
First off – reducing the term limit at which abortions can be carried out. Less than 1% of abortions happen after 21 weeks, and the argument of Davies (who appeared on the Heaven and Earth show this morning) that these late abortions are carried out for “social reasons”, beggars belief. Davies has produced no evidence for this claim. A ten minute rule bill is hardly the sort of place to bring together doctors (90% of whom are pro-choice) and scientists to debate the issues.
Secondly, the cooling off period. This is a direct import from the anti-choice campaigners in the US. It is intended to give vocal campaigners and extremists space to
initimdate persuade women not to go through with their decision. The irony of Dorries’ combining of these two initiatives is that the cooling off period will lead to more late abortions, not less.
The Bill is effectively an extension of the “dog whistle” tactics that right-wingers use on race in to the abortion issue. They won’t openly say that they oppose all abortion, but it is a coded message for anti-abortion activists that the Tories are on their side.
The Bill will be voted on as a free vote, but it will be interesting to see which MPs vote which way, and in fact which MPs make the effort to attend this unwhipped vote.