A request for equal respect from Nadine Dorries

IMG_1572 by elleeanne

(c) elleeanne

Georgia Lewis

It would be so easy to take a cheap shot at Nadine Dorries this week. Last year, she admitted to an affair with a married man and as a result, she has been slut-shamed as a home-wrecker despite simultaneously becoming the darling of the Christian right because of her policies on abortion and sex education.

But Nadine Dorries’ personal life is really only the business of those directly involved. To call her a wanton slapper is a misogynistic, unconstructive potshot. Her affair most likely caused distress to her lover’s wife and family but outside of that sphere, nobody else has been directly affected. So in the spirit of keeping out of people’s bedrooms, I am showing Ms Dorries respect. We are, after all, only human and saintly personal lives are hard to achieve.

In return for this respect for Ms Dorries’ private life, I hereby call upon her to show equal respect to the women of Britain who are faced with the very private decision of whether or not to have an abortion. For some women, it is an easy decision to make, they undergo the procedure, they get on with their lives. For other women, it is an agonising time and unbiased, compassionate counselling where all options are outlined proves to be very helpful.

Dorries, with the support of Labour MP Frank Field, proposes that all women are offered “independent” counselling before making the decision to terminate a pregnancy or not. A one-size-fits-all approach is completely inappropriate when it comes to every woman with an unplanned pregnancy – there are so many different backstories that have led these women to this point.

This plan becomes somewhat fuzzy without a clear definition of independence. Marie Stopes and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) have been slammed as having a “vested interest” in making sure more women have abortions even though both are non-profit charities and both offer services that go beyond merely providing abortion. Marie Stopes and BPAS also assist men and women with birth control, sexual health, post-abortion counselling and sterilisation. If the doctors involved were truly interested in making loads of money, they’d be better off delivering babies and slotting in planned C-sections between golf games. Providing abortions is not a get-rich-quick scheme for doctors.

It would be far more constructive for Dorries and Field to encourage broader use of the free birth control readily available in the UK, to ensure sex education in schools is wide-ranging and not fixated on ineffective abstinence-only dogma – all this will go a long way towards ensuring less women need abortions. They could also propose putting a system in place to ensure there are regular surveys of women who have used pre-abortion counselling services. Then we may get a clear and honest picture as to whether women really are being railroaded into abortions or whether objective counsellors are seriously discussing all options, including abortion, adoption and raising the child.

Dorries did have an unfortunate and upsetting experience with a botched, late-term abortion when she worked as a nurse – but if women delay their decision to have a termination under her proposals, it is likely that more of these late-term abortions will take place in the UK rather than less.

Indeed, for women who do not want to have an abortion but are not ready for motherhood either, perhaps it is time for the UK to look more seriously at making it easier for these women to adopt their babies to people who are unable to have children. Adoption figures in the UK are at an all-time low despite plenty of people willing to become adoptive parents.

A simplistic, one-size-fits-all approach to pre-abortion counselling is not the answer and it is insulting to the many women who are certain they want an abortion. And the obvious question must be asked of Nadine Dorries – if her proposal succeeds and, as a result, thousands more babies are born, will the current government be prepared to foot the bill for the inevitable rise in family and single parent benefits? Or is that too personal a question?

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