The lessons of Nadine Dorries’s bungled attempt to reform abortion rules

The silhouettes of Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

If there is any lesson to be learnt by pro-lifers over this latest bungled attempt to modify the Abortion Act it is that we must be resolute in stating clearly and publicly that abortion means the deliberate killing of preborn life.

What motivated MP Nadine Dorries to try to introduce mandatory “independent counselling” for pregnant women contemplating abortion? It can’t be because she is pro-life, because she isn’t. Is it because, as someone who is pro-choice, she is still uneasy about the number of abortions performed every year in this country? Or uneasy that almost all the counselling that pregnant women receive at present is given by those who stand to profit from abortion?

Her extraordinary statement when interviewed on the World at One earlier this week shows how muddled and morally ambiguous her thinking is. Asked by the interviewer what independent and impartial counselling would mean, she replied, “It means someone who isn’t an abortion provider, who isn’t of a religious organisation. I can assure you that if a Catholic group said they were going to set up and offer advice I would be as against them offering advice as I am the abortion provider; so it would, I imagine, be counsellors who are registered with the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapy…”

Other bloggers have pointed out that this takes away the ordinary rights as citizens of people with religious views, to publicly affirm them. It tells me that Dorries, terrified of being associated with genuine pro-lifers and wanting to avoid the fury of the hard-line, pro-choice, feminist lobby, is showing her true colours: queasy about the ease with which abortions can be performed but too much of a coward to properly fight it.

I cannot see what “independent and impartial” means in this context. We are talking about life or death issues, not moving house or changing jobs or what to do about an unhappy marriage. You are either pro-life or pro-choice; there is no such thing as “neutrality” here. No Christian should offer “impartial” counselling. Indeed, is Ms Dorries saying that that you can’t be registered with the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapy and at the same time be a Catholic? Or do you have to promise when you register that your private religious beliefs will remain just that – private – and not interfere with your professional work?

Abortion is always a tragedy for those involved. As for the current legislation, it is destructive on a massive scale. Yesterday’s report about the Dorries amendment in the Daily Telegraph shows the Coalition to be as cowardly and morally compromised as Ms Dorries herself. “It is now clear that Mr Cameron does not favour the changes and instead ministers will only promise to look at the issue later this year.” A Downing Street spokesman said, “The discussions currently under way do not represent any moral shift in the Government’s approach to abortion as an issue and there are no changes to the Abortion Act involved…”

Are we surprised?