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Friday, May 09, 2008 

The lying lies and dirty secrets of Ms Nadine Dorries MP.

By her own admission, Nadine Dorries MP is a liar. Back in March she presented an known urban myth as an emotional case for why the current abortion limit of 24 weeks should be cut to 20 weeks, and when this was pointed out to her, she responded by making arguments that only exposed her ignorance. Dorries has a long record of never apologising and never admitting that she has made mistakes: last year she accused Ben Goldacre of "a serious breach of parliamentary procedure" after he downloaded information from a parliamentary committee's website which Dorries thought he had obtained from a committee member, something for which she never apologised for and when asked when she was going to do so on her blog she removed the comments sections. She additionally, after accusing Caroline Flint among other MPs of having been "bought by the abortion industry", a claim rejected by the parliamentary standards commission, not only refused to apologise to Flint after she confronted her but crowed about not doing so on her "blog".

Dorries is therefore the perfect figurehead for the "20 reasons for 20 weeks" campaign, a coalition of Conservative MPs with single token Liberal Democrat and Labour supporters, along with religious, mainly Christian anti-abortion organisations. Like her, they rely on abusing, misinterpreting and distorting available information for their views, or alternatively, on the evidence of individual doctors which has been called into question by others. As well as that, in order to not come across as opposing abortion in all circumstances, something which would result in their campaign becoming an even damper squib than it already is, they instead claim to be pro-choice but feel that the current limit is too long as more foetuses survive beyond the 20 week mark.

The only problem with this is that little by little, their real views are being exposed. The already noted lone Labour supporter of the 20 weeks campaign, Jim Dobbin, is in fact in favour of a 13-week limit, but regards the current campaign as being a step towards that. He is also, coincidentally, opposed to contraception. The Christian Medical Fellowship openly states that this is just the first step towards the abolition of the right to abortion altogether. CARE currently has a news article up on their web site expressing their horror at the European Parliament passing a resolution which states "
that women have a right to access safe and legal abortion, and calls on all member states to decriminalise abortion 'within reasonable gestational limits'". Christian Concern for Our Nation, whose website is the most clap-happy and even more religiously inclined than the Evangelical Alliance's is, urge their members to pray for "a great miracle" when the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill goes through the Commons. Coincidentally, a founder member of CCON is the man behind the 20 weeks' website, directly linking Dorries, who has mostly eschewed religious dogma in her personal campaign, with them. The LIFE charity only supports abortion where the life of the mother herself is threatened. The Prolife Alliance, as one would expect, is also completely opposed to abortion (PDF).

Perhaps those organisations might then be surprised to learn that Dorries herself, when a Conservative parliamentary candidate for Hazel Grove, campaigned on a pro-choice platform. It's not clear whether Dorries at the time was in favour of the limit as it stands, or whether it's just another example of her being wholly disingenuous, as she claimed, when questioned on her current views last year on the Spectator website, to favour a 9-week limit, even lower than that of Dobbin. She was also formerly a director of BUPA, one of the companies she now accuses of being part of the "abortion industry".

Unfortunately for Dorries, the shit over her underhand means is likely to hit the fan if not this weekend, then certainly next week. Dorries' website and blog is funded from the incidental expenses provision, the rules of which clearly state that such funds should not be used for campaigning on the behalf of a political party or a personal cause: Dorries' website is chock-full of her doing just that, the most egregious examples her vindictive posts on female pro-choice Labour MPs. A complaint to the commissioner for parliamentary standards is in the offing.

Meanwhile, Dorries has been highly vexed by the latest research published in the British Medical Journal, as reported today in the Grauniad and elsewhere. Like in the Epicure 2 study, this found that while the survival rates of babies born at 24 and 25 weeks is improving, there was no statistical improvement in those born at 23 and 22 weeks. At 23 weeks 18% survived; at 22 weeks none did. Her response to this peer-reviewed study, which completely blows her argument that neo-natal survival rates are increasing out of the water, was to say:

"I think this report insults the intelligence of the public and MPs alike. No improvement in neonatal care in 12 years? Really? So where has all the money that has been pumped into neonatal services gone then?" She called the study "the most desperate piece of tosh produced by the pro-choice lobby."

As BD says, the study actually does show that neonatal care has improved, just at 24 and 25 weeks. As those against lowering the limit have consistently argued, this research backs up the point that the viability threshold has been reached, and that those that have survived at 22 weeks are extremely welcome but overall rare anomalies and blips. They do not support lowering the current limit as it stands.

That though, despite the 20 weeks' campaign's insistence, has never been what they really thought. They want abortion restricted no matter what the science and evidence suggests, and if it takes one step at a time and hiding their real arguments behind pseudo-scientific bluster, so be it. Out of all the MPs that this blog has covered over the last few years, it's safe to say that none (with the exception of dear Tony) has been as underhand, as genuinely unpleasant, manipulative, vindictive and dishonest as both Dorries has been and apparently is. She is both a disgrace to politics as a whole and a liability to the Conservative party. The crushing of her current malignant campaign will be just the first step of the fightback.

Related posts:
Laurie Penny - 24 reasons for 24 weeks

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