Dorries loses abortion vote after fractious debate

The issue of abortion continues to be incendiary in British politics
The issue of abortion continues to be incendiary in British politics.

By Ian Dunt

Nadine Dorries has lost her amendment on abortion by 118 votes to 368, following an intensely emotional debate in which she accused Lib Dems of blackmailing the prime minister.

Cabinet ministers Liam Fox, Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Patterson  voted for Ms  Dorries proposals.

Using nearly an hour of the allotted 90 minutes given to her amendment to the health and social care bill, Ms Dorries issued a spectacular attack on her detractors and the Liberal Democrats.


The MP for Mid Bedfordshire endured a bruising experience just before the debate started when she told the prime minister to show Nick Clegg "who's the boss".

David Cameron replied by saying: "I know the honourable lady is extremely frustrated..."

Cameron humiliates  Dorries

The phrase, interpreted by some as innuendo, prompted huge laughter in the Commons.

Ms Dorries called the prime minister "gutless" over the weekend, following reports he had backed down on supporting her proposals following a meeting a livid Mr Clegg.

She reiterated that attack today, telling the Commons that Mr Clegg only acted after meeting with former Lib Dem MP Dr Evan Harris.

"A former MP who lost his seat in this place is blackmailing our prime minister," she told the Commons.

The statement prompted Lib Dem Mp Martin Horwood to raise a point of order, asking Speaker John Bercow if it was in order to accuse a former MP of a criminal offence.

"My understanding at present is that there has been no breach of order," Mr Bercow replied.

"However, my message to the honourable member and to the House… is that temperate language, moderation and good humour [should]… inform our debates."

Ms Dorries told MPs: "It is time to make a decision, not informed by the Lib Dems, not blackmailed by the Lib Dems, not held to ransom by the Lib Dems.

"Be prepared to stand by your view today since it will be on everyone's parliamentary record."

By the end of the debate even Mr Field, who co-signed the amendment, called on Ms Dorries not press ahead with the amendment, given that health minister Anne Milton had already suggested that the Department of Health (DoH) would investigate the issue.

The government is intending to offer all women having an abortion the offer of independent counselling but not to strip providers of their duty to do so as well – a key aspect of Ms Dorries' proposal.

For Labour, shadow public health minister Diane Abbott branded the amendment "shoddy and ill-conceived".

She added: "This amendment is the opposite of evidence-based policy making.

"The proposer of this amendment assumes that thousands of women don't know what they're doing."

The amendment would offer all women counselling from 'independent' providers, but prevented abortion providers from offering the service.

Pro-choice campaigners raised the alarm when several of the organisations recognised by Ms Dorries' preferred Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) turned out to be anti-abortion groups. 

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