Observations Medicine and the Media

Dorries’s abortion amendment and the health bill

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d5998 (Published 21 September 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5998
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. margaret{at}margaretmccartney.com

Was Nadine Dorries’s abortion amendment used to deflect attention from the health bill, asks Margaret McCartney

The Health and Social Care Bill was passed by the House of Commons on Wednesday 7 September 2011. This bill, which had received large amounts of protest and coverage in the lead up to and during the consultations about it, was passed with a majority of 316 votes to 251 (of a total of 650 MPs). On the same day, Nadine Dorries, a Conservative MP, had brought an amendment to the bill, objecting to abortion clinics providing counselling services and arguing for “independent providers” to do this instead.

With two big health stories on one day, one was threatening to overshadow the other. The mainstay of public attention until September had been on the health bill itself, with the royal colleges of general practitioners, physicians, and nursing noting serious concerns. Although the Future Forum had been charged with examining the bill for months before, Dorries’s amendment had received little attention except in the week or two immediately beforehand. On 31 August the Guardian newspaper columnist Zoe Williams predicted that “any discussion of …

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