Dorries Agonistes

From the Guardian:

MPs are considering plans that would allow anti-abortion organisations to offer publicly funded pregnancy counselling services, despite the defeat of similar proposals in a parliamentary vote last year.

A cross-party group of MPs, set up by the public health minister Anne Milton after last September’s vote against proposals by the Tory MP Nadine Dorries, is looking at plans that could give anti-abortion groups an official role.

One group member said Dorries had opposed most of the favoured option, particularly the idea that counsellors should clearly state their views on abortion.

Dorries told the Guardian that the consultation would give everyone an opportunity to contribute. “I am particularly keen to hear the voices of those women who have been actually been through the abortion process as opposed to those which are ideologically biased either as pro-choice or pro-life,” she said.

…Tracey McNeill, director of UK and Europe at Marie Stopes, said… “We simply don’t believe that organisations whose own publications describe abortion as ‘a most grievous sin’ can provide impartial pregnancy counselling to women. 

Dorries has responded to one of the report’s authors, on Twitter:

@BenQuinn75 There are SO many inaccuracies; I don’t know where to start. I am amazed that your employer pays you to be write ficton? (1)

@BenQuinn75 No organisation which is ‘anti-abortion’ will be allowed to provide counselling. (2)

@BenQuinn75 Totally untrue that I argued against every aspect of option 2, in fact, it is my favoured option, (3)

@BenQuinn75 Stewart Jackson [MP] is not ‘anti-abortion’ and neither am I . We are both opposed to abortion after 20 weeks which is very different (4)

@BenQuinn75 No one whose literature describes abortion as ‘a grievous sin’ would be allowed anywhere near a pregnant woman (5)

Dorries’ attempts to reform laws around abortion go back to her experience of attending a botched abortion when she was a nurse. She has, however, positioned herself against some anti-abortion activism, particularly that of the the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children – SPUC has declined to support Dorries’ proposals, prompting Dorries to Tweet that SPUC’s director John Smeaton is

…shameful and cowardly and will never fly on the wings of an eagle. (6)

This is typical Dorries – all critics are subjected to personalized venom, here with a weird quip attached to give a bit of “only joking” wriggle-room.

On the other hand, Dorries expressed enthusiasm when Rick Santorum surged ahead of Mitt Romney in the polls:

Who says there isn’t a God? Lots of people have been praying for this! [Link given] (7)

Why would someone supposedly keen to show that they are “not ‘anti-abortion'” make such a statement, other than as a dog whistle to conservative religious groups? It’s also the case that one counselling service Dorries has in particular commended does treat abortion in terms of sin – this is Forsaken, an organisation based in Taunton. Forsaken’s literature associates abortion with a sense of guilt which will be assuaged only by conversion to Christianity; the notion of abortion as “a grievous sin” is certainly implicit, even if the phrase is not itself used.

It looks like the Guardian piece did contain errors – the claim that Dorries is opposed to “the idea that counsellors should clearly state their views on abortion” is in particular strange. But, as I’ve discussed previously, Dorries’ true intentions remain unclear.

The Guardian also notes that in relation to Milton’s group that

Last month, the shadow health minister Diane Abbott walked out, claiming the group was a front to push an anti-abortion agenda without debate in parliament.

This led to a memorable spat on Newsnight, in which Dorries claimed that Abbott had “fallen asleep” during meetings. Abbott – already on the ropes over other matters – was effectively diminished. Abbott attempted a comeback via the Guardian, but her recollection that

As she walked off the television set Nadine’s high heels clacked triumphantly

served only to remind us of Abbott’s own poor performance.

However, Abbott shouldn’t have been surprised by Dorries’ line of attack, which was characteristically ruthless: a blogger who has investigated her expenses and challenged some of her assertions is a “stalker” whose “special hatred is reserved for women”; a constituent who was off work waiting for operations on her feet and who criticised Dorries on Twitter “is giving housebound disabled people a bad name” and ought to be put to work; her (now ex-) boyfriend’s estranged wife is “violent” and has been repudiated by her own children; Tim Farron MP, while purporting to be a Christian, has been “outed” as someone  who has been “blinded by ambition and sold his soul to the devil” (“outed” was also a mocking jibe about rumours concerning Farron’s sexuality); Chancellor the Exchequer George Osborne is a “traitor” and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is “mad”; the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has “offended every practicing Christian in the UK”.

And that’s not even including disputes contrived simply to maintain Dorries’ media profile: an abusive attack on Andrew Neil as an “orange, overweight, toupee-wearing has-been” is the most famous (and perhaps the least controversial), while an ill-advised quip from the Prime Minister was milked in a Daily Mail op-ed entitled “The PM Publicly Humiliated Me in Front of the Entire Nation, What Did I Do to Deserve That?”

Consequently, as “outspoken MP Nadine Dorries“, she now finds its easy for her pensées on a range of subjects to garner media attention; last month almost simultaneously saw “Tory MP Nadine Dorries urges reform of ‘sexist’ BBC”, and wide publicity given to a Tweet in support of a sexist beer brand in the Commons bar: “Banning of the Top Totty beer was weak PC decision and gives sensible pro-women advocates a bad name”. Part of that last quote even made it into Chinese translation:

???(Nadine Dorries)??”??Top Totty????????????”

UPDATE: One other person on the receiving end of Dorries’ abuse is the former Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris. Harris is known for his support of abortion rights and euthanasia, and so Dorries naturally accuses him of having sanguinary motives:

Everyone calls Evan Harris Dr Death. I always will due to his obsession with ending people’s lives via abortion/euthanasia (8)

The claim that “everyone” calls Harris “Dr Death” appears in a  2007 Daily Mail hit-piece by Leo McKinstry, although Sunny Hundal argues that

The ‘nickname’ isn’t widely used at all, except by some internet commenters and by Nadine Dorries.

The Telegraph columnist Christina Odone did use it, but has now stopped as far as I can tell. The broadcaster Gerri Peev used it in the Daily Mail but apparently apologised for it afterwards.

Harris is Jewish, and he believes that the Mail, by applying to him a nickname given to Dr Josef Mengele, is guilty of anti-Semitism. I don’t think that’s supportable, but Dorries’ response to objections from Sunny is embarrassing in its ignorance and spiteful glee:

Evan Harris isn’t Jewish is he Sunny, he’s a humanist. Abortion forbidden in Jewish faith. So no slur then eh? (9)

…He has renounced his faith and is a humanist. You lost buster. Night. (10)

UPDATE 2: Dorries further defends the “Dr Death” jibe on the grounds that humanists support infanticide:

Evan Harris is a humanist and humanists support this [Link] why do people wonder at his Dr Death Moniker. #welldeserved (11)

As I discussed here, Dorries is involved in a more general feud with humanism.

4 Responses

  1. I think there is another aspect to calling Evan Harris “Dr. Death” – linking him to euthanasia – which is equally offensive. And perhaps more personally hurtful.

    His girlfriend (Liz O’Hara, died 2003) had a brain tumour. He gave up his work as a medical doctor to care for her through her illness up until her death.

    Something that a nasty little t**t like Nadine Dorries would be happy to fling in his face….

  2. […] as I’ve noted previously, has positioned herself as a pro-choice reformer; she does not have the support of the Society for […]

  3. […] alarmingly, it appears that the UK news cycle and political agenda is now being set by Nadine Dorries MP. Writing in the Mail on Sunday (where else?), Dorries warns the prime minister that he will be […]

  4. […] it appears to consist of a two-page Word document focusing on Dorries’ activism against abortion, padded out with two large photos of a fetus in the womb. Bedfordshire on Sunday showed little […]

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