David Cameron 'won't back abortion advice change'

Nadine Dorries MP Nadine Dorries has campaigned to reduce the time limit for abortions

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David Cameron "cannot support" an attempt by a Conservative MP to change the rules on the advice that can be offered to women seeking abortions.

The PM's office said he was sympathetic to Nadine Dorries' view that women should be offered independent advice.

But he was concerned the planned amendment to the Health Bill would prevent abortion providers like Marie Stopes from giving counselling as well.

Ms Dorries claims such clinics have a financial motive to encourage abortion.

At present, women seeking an abortion need the consent of two doctors, which can be obtained through an NHS clinic or GP surgery, or at a private provider, like Marie Stopes or the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), affiliated with the NHS.

In both cases, staff have a duty to provide counselling to the women who use them - and under Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' guidelines that advice should be impartial, objective and unbiased.

Faith-based groups

Ms Dorries' amendment - which is also supported by Labour backbencher Frank Field - would remove that duty from Marie Stopes and BPAS.

It says the NHS - specifically GPs - should provide "independent information, advice and counselling services for women requesting termination of pregnancy" - and it defines "independent" as an organisation that does not itself provide abortions.

There are no other stipulations about who those independent bodies could be and pro-choice campaigners say they could be faith-based groups morally opposed to abortion, who will seek to persuade women that going ahead with one would be a sin.

The Health and Social Care Bill is due to be discussed by MPs in the Commons next Tuesday and Wednesday, but it is up to the Speaker, John Bercow, to decide whether or not to call Ms Dorries' amendment.

Downing Street said the prime minister may not be there for the debate, but if he was, he would vote against the amendment.

Number 10 also stressed that it was a free vote and no pressure was being applied to Conservative MPs to vote in a particular way.

'Conveyor belt'

Ms Dorries told the BBC she believed the prime minister would change his position before the vote when he saw "polling evidence" in the weekend newspapers.

In an article for the Daily Mail, Ms Dorries - a former nurse who has campaigned to reduce the legal time limit for abortions - has written that she wants women "to be offered genuinely independent counselling, so they can at least consider their options and not necessarily feel, at a time when they may be desperately vulnerable, that a termination is the only option".

Start Quote

Work is underway currently to develop proposals around counselling”

End Quote Spokesman Department of Health

"Under present legislation, doctors or pregnancy advisory services have no duty to offer professional, impartial help to women considering an abortion," the MP for Mid-Bedfordshire said.

"Moreover, most counselling is offered by the big abortion providers themselves, like the British Pregnancy Advisory Service or the Marie Stopes clinics, which are paid millions by the NHS to carry out terminations - and so profit from the process."

Ms Dorries has also written on her blog that "thousands" of women seeking abortions "feel they were put on a conveyor belt to the operating theatre the minute they stepped through the clinic door".

But she insisted her stance was not about religious belief, writing: "No organisation which is paid for carrying out abortions and no organisation that thinks it's appropriate to bring God into a counselling session with a vulnerable woman, should be allowed anywhere near the counselling room."


The Department of Health says it is looking to consult over the advice available to women seeking terminations and has not finalised any proposals yet.

But it says any requirement to offer independent counselling would be in addition to what is already provided by GPs and clinics, not instead of it, and the government was not proposing stripping abortion charities of their ability to provide advice.

"The Department of Health wants women who are thinking about having an abortion to be able to have access to independent counselling," a spokesman said.

"Work is underway currently to develop proposals around counselling on which the department intends to consult externally."

The government also says all abortion providers are subject to a robust regulatory framework underpinned by good medical practice to ensure that women receive high quality care.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 573.

    You cannot prove there is no God only believe it, just as those who think there is one is believe. It's just assertion on both sides.

    However if there is God then it views the universe from a perspective so far away from ours that it is unlikely to think anything humans can think, and therefore to assume it would oppose abortion is transference on the part of those who do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 572.

    Anti abortionists,in the main roman catholics,talk about the sanctity of life.They seem more concerned about the unborn foetus than their starving millions who are indoctrinated against the use of contraception.And they are strangely reluctant to face up the abuse scandals sweeping their religion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 571.

    553. Mark Cosens

    Yes. Pray with a sincere heart and a real intent to know and you will get your proof."


    He meant *real* proof i.e. demonstrable, repeatable and unbiased.

    Remember, humans have worshipped tens of thousands of Gods, all as enthusiastically as you do yours.

    There's nothing rational you could show me to say that you're right and they're wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 570.

    I don't think the main problem is abortion, it's shoddy contraception. Half of unplanned pregnancies occur when the couple is using a form of contraception. Improve access to the far more reliable long-term reversible methods, such as IUDs, and better educate people about correct usage of the methods where user error is a big factor, such as condoms, and the abortion rate will drop dramatically.

  • rate this

    Comment number 569.

    Although I believe in 'a womans right to choose' I think too many women choose that option - iit's better to do all you can to avoid unplanned pregnancy in the first place (although occasionally contraception fails).
    However, I do understand that for many women it would be completely the wrong choice to bring up a child at that point in their lives. Adopting could also be an option for some.

  • rate this

    Comment number 568.

    Mr Max

    It is also written in there that 'perfect love drives out fear'

    Don't worry. Try to live a clean and moral life that gives you a clear conscience.

    We all have free choice, but we cannot subvert the fact that there is always a consequence to everything that we think, say, write or do

  • rate this

    Comment number 567.

    Nobody is pressured into having an abortion by qualified medical professionals in this country. If a woman does not want an abortion, or is unsure, they do not get told to have one. The only pressure to have an abortion or have a child is caused by the father and/or family members.

  • rate this

    Comment number 566.

    @537 Louise - Bit unfair on Harry Potter - at least we know who wrote Harry Potter.

    @553 Mark Cosens - Hardly proof if it doesn't provide predictable, repeatable and demonstrable results.
    And if this god you seem obsessed with is so concerned with preserving life, why is he so against condoms, are the lives of aids sufferers less important than unborn foetuses?

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    The key issue here is that abortion should not be considered as birth control. Anyone having sex without contraceptives knows the likely concequence is pregnancy. Too many people treat abortion as a contraceptive.

    In reality having sex without a contraceptive, you should take the responsibility to understand the consequences first. No one should need 26 weeks to to decide on an abortion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 564.

    #553 Mark Cosens-There is no god old son,it's a fairytale believed only by the gullible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    532.Tom Your age predisposes you to sentimentality, as does a male tendancy to idealise a demanding and life threatening process no one can require it to perform. If you were the one running the risks and coping with the consequences you might think differently. I hope you find a little more humility as you mature. Consider: a foetus at 12 weeks is much further away from being human than a lab rat

  • rate this

    Comment number 562.

    548.Mr Max FYI God created Human Beings & all life is governed by divine law. Human & all life is precious, not trivial. It is eternal. Life has existed for longer than we can comprehend & will develop & progress for eternity. We have a stewardship & responsibility to act in accordance with moral &social laws. We are happy and safe when we do. There are consequences otherwise
    Abortion is tragedy

  • rate this

    Comment number 561.

    526. cheryl

    And how many children are in care? There are times when women face this decision & they need ALL our support, prays & love NO MATTER what decision they make. Until we walk in their shoes we should not judge. We would all do better by trying to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 560.

    @550. Mark Cosens

    There's no such thing as mistakes; only different choices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 559.

    If this leads to lives being saved and a better respect for the dignity of all people it will be a good thing. A step towards freedom and respect for life

  • rate this

    Comment number 558.

    531. Mark Cosens
    Try reading the whole Bible if you have any intention at all of understanding who God is.


    I have done, more than once, which is why it worries me so much.

    It tells us that the word of God is perfect (Psalm 18:30) but then goes on to tell such horrific commandments, such as women being subservient (Timothy 2:12) or slaves must submit to their masters (Peter 2: 18).

  • rate this

    Comment number 557.

    I am very happy that the Prime Minister has responded in this manner. I think it is important that we, as a liberal nation, sticks to our principles of free choice. This is an individual decision and no authority should be allowed to legislate on it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 556.

    I find the argument that as the foetus cannot survive outside the womb it is acceptable to kill it a very disturbing one. Many people, of all ages, cannot survive without external help - e.g. the seriously ill, the elderly and infirm, the mentally sick - would you use the same argument? All life is precious and no life should be ended for the convenience of someone else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 555.

    Like the lady MP I worked as a nurse. During my training I cared for women having terminations. What horrified me were the sheer numbers undergoing this. Many were married; a number had had 1 or more procedures previously. I do think more should be done to help women avoid pregancy in the 1st place if unable to go through with it; if it occurs, every option available should be considered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    @ Chad H
    Abstinence doesn't work all the time either, well it certainly didn't work for Mary of Nazareth did it.


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