As we suggested at the weekend, Parliament rejected Nadine Dorries’ Termination of Pregnancy Bill by a majority of 79 yesterday. That isn’t surprising because most MPs are pro-choice. Dorries again rolled out the claim that abortions conducted after 20 weeks are for “social” reasons, a claim rather lacking in evidence. She didn’t even bother to justify or explain the proposed 10-day mandatory pause in service (combined with compulsory counselling).
What was most interesting about the short debate was the response by Labour MP Chris McCafferty. Reading the speech online is pretty powerful for people interested in this issue, but watching it on parliament.tv it came across amazingly strongly – it loses a lot of the power and eloquence in writing.
McCafferty accused the promoters of the Bill of joining a “campaign that is fuelled and funded by religious conservatives from Washington” – hinting at the PR company apparently hired by Dorries. She went on to demolish the arguments in favour of reducing term limits, a mandatory pause in service and the other provisions of the Bill. She finished by calling on MPs to vote, “against the Bill if you are pro-humanity, because it is cynical, cruel, ill-informed and, above all, inhumane.”
Interestingly, the vote pretty much broke down along party lines, with only a handful of Labour and Lib Dem MPs (the latter including Bob Russell and Mark Oaten – make up your own joke) voting for the Bill, while those opposing the Bill only included a handful of Tories.
This does carry a serious warning for those defending women’s right to choose in Britain – another 40 Tory MPs in the House could have overturned the majority.
Strangely, most of the Government didn’t make the vote – including Blair, Brown, Prescott, Reid, Benn, Blears, Johnson, Hain and Harman. They are busy governing the country of course, and ministers do not normally vote on a Ten Minute Rule Bill, but this wasn’t just any old Bill, it was the first vote on abortion law in Britain for 16 years and it is a shame they couldn’t make time.