Nadine Dorries returns – to what?

The author of Short Cuts Blog asks “What should Nadine Dorries do next?” and appears to be blithely unaware that although Nadine Dorries is suspended from the Conservative Party, she is still an MP, and will remain one until the next General Election, unless she decides to make David Cameron happy by resigning and triggering another by-election:

There’s a question mark over whether or not the programme-makers could have allowed her to promulgate a political agenda, under the terms of the Communications Act 2003. Perhaps she should have looked that up before she said yes, but she was too busy perverting the course of reproductive health (and whatnot).

Another miscalculation, I think, is that she assumed her likability would come across on screen. The truth is, in Portcullis House she is approachable, modest and subtly conspiratorial; but that kind of stuff is all relative. Somebody who seems nice in a room full of MPs does not necessarily shine in a box full of earwigs.

Nadine Dorries claims she is prochoice (no, really she does) she just wants women who need abortions after 20 weeks to have to travel to another country to get them, just as they do in Ireland for all abortions. So does Alex Neil, Health Secretary for Scotland, Alex Salmond, and David Cameron: an important company of men to decide what women can be allowed to do.

Yesterday was the International Day of Action for safe legal abortions in Ireland. Sinead Daly, one of the organisers of the protest held in Edinburgh, noted that merely legislating for the X case – which has itself waited for 20 years – would not necessarily have saved Savita Halappanavar’s life:

“points to the need that legislation would go beyond the terms of the Irish Supreme Court ruling on the X case, as this in itself would not guarantee that Savita or any other pregnant woman in the future would get the treatment that they would require”.

She said: “The X case rulings only allows for an abortion if there is a real and substantive risk to a woman’s life, as opposed to her health, and it seems that it was this very restrictive stipulation that may have been used to justify not giving Savita the termination she needed.

“We reject the counter posing of the health of a woman to her life, in 21st-century Ireland are they saying that women’s health doesn’t matter? It is now necessary for the right to free, legal and safe abortion to be available in this country.”

While prolife campaigners claim that Ireland has a “zero abortion rate”, in fact Ireland has an abortion rate normal for a European country: what makes Ireland unusual in developed nations is that virtually every legal abortion is outsourced overseas at the patient’s expense. Ireland’s healthcare for women is fundamentally dependent on UK healthcare.

Because doctors in Ireland are unsure of when they can terminate a pregnancy legally – at what point does concern for a woman’s health, which is illegal as a justification for abortion in Ireland, become concern for a woman’s life, which is theoretically legal but unlegislated? – and because a practicing doctor in Ireland will get no experience in performing surgical abortions, and because a doctor may be unwilling to perform an abortion and have no idea who s/he could refer a patient to, and because a doctor may know that they’ll get no support from their hospital if they do perform an abortion – for all of these reasons, women who need abortions are forced to travel, cervix dilated, miscarrying, ill, overseas to the UK where the abortion they need will be performed at their own expense.

One woman, Jennifer, said that in 2003 when she was 16 weeks’ pregnant, she started bleeding and went to her local hospital.

“All the nurses inside [the unit] just started crying uncontrollably. They said there was no hope for the baby and they couldn’t understand I hadn’t miscarried.

“There was no … fluid [around the foetus], he had one kidney, fluid on his brain. But there was a heartbeat. They kept listening.”

Jennifer said GPs and four consultants met her separately after work in their own time for scans, only to tell her “you need to make a decision immediately” due to the impact on her health.

She said one said to her mother: “I know what I would do if it was my daughter, you need to read between the lines. You need to do it urgently.

“I went to see my GP at 11pm at night.” Her mother travelled with her to Britain.

That’s Irish healthcare for women. Limited and dependent on the UK. That’s not a hint that Savita and Praveen Halappanavar would have taken – they expected, as Ireland touts itself, the best healthcare for mothers in Europe. They didn’t know, and Savita died of it, that behind this “best healthcare” mask lies the reality of unconcern and indifference for a woman whose pregnancy isn’t wanted or isn’t going well:

As Michelle Harte found:

In 2010, after she became unintentionally pregnant while suffering from a malignant melanoma, doctors at Cork University Hospital advised her to terminate her pregnancy because of the risk to her health. Her obstetrician was willing to perform a termination but was “hamstrung” by legal issues. The matter was referred to the hospital’s “ad hoc” ethics committee. which decided against authorising an abortion on the basis that her life was not under “immediate threat”.

Ms Harte has since died from her cancer.

Because of delays caused by her not having a passport and the time it took for the hospital to reach its decision, her condition deteriorated and she was not able to receive cancer treatment because of her pregnancy. Eventually she travelled, with great difficulty, to Britain for the abortion.

That’s not a healthcare system for women anyone would recommend, and I wonder what Nadine Dorries would have said if she had been around to ask. No one has asked Mehdi Hasan, who like Jeremy Hunt, believes the UK should be more like Ireland and less like Belgium or France – to these men, Hasan and Hunt, Savita Halappanavar’s need for an abortion at 17 weeks would put her well outside their moral spectrum, which does not consider that pregnancies go wrong, that abortion is a medical necessity, an intrinsic part of women’s healthcare.

Objectionable as his views on women are, Mehdi Hasan is just a New Statesman columnist: Jeremy Hunt is one of the British Isle’s four anti-choice Health Ministers. (The Fine Gael, the DUP, the Tories, and the SNP have all put men in charge of health who think women can’t be trusted to decide when they need an abortion: Labour in Wales is the only party to provide a prochoice health minister, Lesley Griffiths.)

According to what they’ve said and voted, Nadine Dorries, Alex Neil and Alex Salmond believe that Savita Halappanavar should have been allowed to have an abortion, not because of her medical need but because her miscarriage happened at 17 weeks and not three weeks later.

Yesterday a small group of TDs in Ireland tried to put forward a bill to legislate on the X case, but failed:

The Government has defeated a Dáil Private Members’ Bill implementing the X case ruling to provide limited access to abortion by 111 votes to 20.

The Private Members’ Bill, put forward by Socialist Party TD Clare Daly, along with People Before Profit TD Joan Collins and Independent TD Mick Wallace, seeks to create a legal framework for abortion in Ireland where a woman’s life is at risk.

The vote was opposed by Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail. It was backed by Sinn Fein and number of independents.

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly rejected the Bill on the grounds that the House should await the report of an expert group on the matter.

Apparently Doctor Reilly feels that it is inappropriate for the Dáil to decide that women’s lives matter.

If you disagree, you can write or email to him: Dr. James Reilly, Minister for Health, at Department of Health, Hawkins House, Dublin 2, Ireland minister’

Nadine Dorries, meantime, is complaining that even though she didn’t tell Andrew Mitchell she planned to be on a reality TV show, she did tell him she wanted a month off:

“I find it quite disappointing now, that now the spotlight came on to this that he has chosen – and particularly after all the support I gave him during his own particular troubles recently – that he is trying to be clever with words and say that he didn’t give me permission for the show. Well, he didn’t give me permission for the show, but he did give me permission to have the month away.”

Oh well.

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