Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 7 September 2011

Reject health bill attacks on abortion

Sarah Wrack

The last couple of weeks has seen to-ing and fro-ing from all wings of the political establishment over Nadine Dorries and Frank Field's amendment to the Health and Social Care bill. The amendment calls for all women seeking abortion to be offered counselling from an organisation that doesn't provide abortion services itself. Pressure has forced Cameron and the health ministers to U-turn, saying they won't support the amendment.

Dorries and Co try to claim that the amendment is very simple and very innocent - the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas) and Marie Stopes get money from the government to provide abortions and so have a 'vested interest' in women deciding to go ahead and therefore cannot provide unbiased counselling.

This is ironic considering the bill they are amending is almost entirely designed to open the NHS up to private companies which will certainly be making decisions based on what will make them the most profit. The interests of businesses, or charities, have no place in our NHS.

NHS investment needed

If the government invested in the NHS rather than attacking it, it would be able to expand its abortion facilities and there would be no need to pay Bpas and Marie Stopes the 150 million a year they currently receive.

But unfortunately, Dorries' amendment does not stem from her concern for keeping the NHS in public hands. She claims that offering 'independent' counselling would reduce the number of abortions by 60,000 each year. This is based on the completely false idea that most women rush into abortion without thinking and then find themselves trapped on the "conveyor belt" while independent counselling would offer them an escape route.

Tory Liam Fox has said he will vote for the amendment because he will "back anything that makes people think twice". To assume that any woman who decides to terminate a pregnancy makes the decision without a great deal of thought is patronising and sexist.


In fact, it's a myth that we have abortion 'on demand' - women have to have 'permission' from two doctors. And as 10% of GPs are 'conscientious objectors' to abortion, many women have to talk to more doctors before they can get an appointment. What other medical procedure requires such jumping through hoops? And, criminally, abortion is still illegal in Northern Ireland.

It's not true that the process is 'too fast' to allow time to reconsider either. In fact, the waiting lists in some areas are so long that women end up having a surgical rather than medical abortion, which means surgery rather than a pill. At every stage of the process, professionals are on hand to talk to women about their options and about what the procedure involves. 20% of women who seek an abortion with Bpas decide not to go through with it after seeing in-house counsellors.

The idea of 'independent' counselling is a smoke screen. What it would really mean is that women find themselves being 'counselled' by religious or other anti-abortion groups. For example, at the moment the biggest provider of such counselling is CareConfidential whose training manual includes such advice as: "Abortion is undoubtedly a wickedness that grieves God's heart... this point is to deny the life of the human being - a most grievous sin in the eyes of God."

Although this amendment is unlikely to be passed, attacks on women's right to choose will continue.

Dorries is a long-term campaigner against abortion rights, backed by right-wing Christian groups who oppose abortion on all grounds. In 2008 she led a bid to reduce the time limit on when women can have abortions from 24 to 20 weeks. As with many anti-abortion campaigners, she argues that too many women have late abortions and that at this stage the 'baby' could now have a decent chance of survival.

However, there has been no significant increase in the survival rate for premature births under 24 weeks. 90% of all abortions take place in the first 12 weeks. Many of the women who have abortions after this point didn't realise they were pregnant - often because they are young or are going through the menopause and so have no or irregular periods, or are in distressing circumstances.


Every woman should have safe and free access to abortion if they choose it. The hypocrisy of these politicians stinks! They've voted for cuts to child benefit, privatised council housing, sacked hundreds of thousands of public sector workers (mainly women) and made hundreds more attacks on working class women and families. The Con-Dems are also slashing funding for mental health services. All of these cuts will limit the right to choose when and whether to have children.

To give women real choice we need:

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 7 September 2011:

Action to defeat the cuts!

Strike together to defend pensions

Mobilise the power of the working class

The Socialist editorial

Mass workers' movement - the only way to make the super-rich pay

Socialist Party news and analysis

Tory bribes to promote socially divisive 'Free Schools' agenda

NHS reaches a tipping point

Reject health bill attacks on abortion

The riots, Clarke and the "broken penal system"

Fast news

New pamphlet - The Rise and Fall of the Scottish Socialist Party

Miliband to bury Labour

Socialist Party feature

Consequences of 9/11: a world turned upside down

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Bristol marches against home care sell-off

EDL kept out of Tower Hamlets by thousands protesting

Stop the Dale Farm evictions

Confronting a Labour cutter

Socialist Party workplace news

Scotland - Unison calls for pensions strike

Picket lines at police stations

Workplace News in brief

Socialist Party youth and students

Youth March For Jobs

One in a million...fighting back!

NEET figures still rising

Local Housing Allowance

36,000 for a degree

Socialist Party review

Them and Us by Will Hutton

International socialist news and analysis

Libya after Gaddafi - Independent workers' action needed

Indian high commission protest over Tamil death sentences


Home   |   The Socialist 7 September 2011   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleCardiff East Socialist Party: Abortion rights

triangleMass union mobilisation needed to counter anti-choice group

triangleWaltham Forest: mobilisation needed to defend abortion rights

triangleReject Alabama abortion ban

triangleA socialist programme to end women's oppression


triangleCapitalism's 'vaccine war' shows need for socialist cooperation

triangleFrom first wave to second? Capitalism's Covid failures

triangleNHS pay: 15% for all now

triangleCardiff West Socialist Party: Capitalism and mental health


triangleDoncaster: Vigil for murdered women

triangleSexist dismissal of women's health: NHS needs democratic control

triangle20 days. One town. Four domestic violence murders.


triangleCampaign stalls on jobs, pay, NHS and racism

triangleSocialist Party placards at a protest of healthcare workers in London demanding a pay rise, photo by Isai

Right to choose:

triangleYouthful enthusiasm to break with repression of past

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



Tories' obesity plans - blaming individuals not the profit system



Capitalism's 'vaccine war' shows need for socialist cooperation


Labour Party

Labour payouts: unions must discuss political representation



NHS pay: 15% for all now



From first wave to second? Capitalism's Covid failures



What would socialist universities look like?



Huawei: what's behind Johnson's u-turn?



Fight for our livelihoods... Fight for our lives!



Saving the music industry from pandemic and austerity



Luton Council sunk by airport investment: fight for funding, not speculation!


The Socialist

Getting the Socialist over the summer



Fight for the NHS



Tories using pandemic to privatise NHS more


Them & Us

Them & Us



Nationalise Tata Steel to save jobs

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020