The appointment of Nadine Dorries to Junior Minister for Health and Social Care shows us that abortion rights in the UK are far from a done deal.
Nadine Dorries is a name I thought I wouldn’t have to hear again. After her less than illustrious exit from the public eye in following expenses scandals, allegations of nepotism and a brief appearance in the jungle, we were able to breathe a small sigh of relief. But now she’s back. And she has a cabinet position.
Perhaps you’re lucky enough not to have heard of Nadine Dorries until this week. Or perhaps, like me, you’ve successfully put her away in the 2006 box of your brain along with ‘You’re Beautiful’ by James Blunt and Pirates of the Caribbean 2. Either way, here’s your handy-but-terrifying reminder of why the name Nadine Dorries strikes fear into the heart of every pro-choice campaigner.
- In 2006, Dorries initiated a bill to Parliament to reduce the time limit for abortions from 24 weeks to 21 weeks. As part of the bill, she tried to introduce a mandatory 10 day ‘cooling off’ period which forced women to undergo compulsory counselling.
- In 2008, she tabled an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill seeking to reduce the term limit to 20 weeks. The amendment was reported to have been written by Andrea Williams a CEO of Christian fundamentalist group Christian Concern For Our Nation(CCFON) who campaign on the platform that homosexuality is sinful and that abortion should be illegal.
- Following the failures of her bill and amendments, Dorries went on to hold a parliamentary debate on the matter of reducing the limit to 20 weeks in 2012.
- Dorries has long relied on tired racist narratives to build support for her anti-choice agenda. In one parliamentary debate she said; “…what about the young Asian girl who was recently marched into a clinic in floods of tears by two family members? No one knew her age, but she was marched in by two family members for an abortion. Is that a one-off story? No.”
- In 2011, Dorries proposed amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill 2011which would have blocked abortion services such as BPAS and Marie Stopes International from providing counselling services to pregnant people seeking abortions.
And those are just the highlights.
Nadine Dorries was once seen by many as a ridiculous outsider, promoting her personal agenda from the backbenches; an abhorrent but harmless minority. Whether that was true or not (her initial bill to reduce the term limit was supported by over a third of MPs), it is categorically no longer the case. As a junior minister, Dorries will have the platform she has long dreamed of… and responsibility for the NHS.
Her appointment is not accidental. She was placed in this role by noted misogynist, Boris Johnson; a man who has routinely abstained from voting on any matters relating to abortion and she makes up a cabinet who have not shown one scrap of support for reproductive rights between them.
Although Nadine Dorries has been quiet on the matter of abortion in the handful of days since her appointment, it’s only a matter of time. We already what has been top of her agenda throughout her career. She is coming for our bodily autonomy. She is coming for the rights of women, girls, and pregnant people. And she has the support of the Prime Minister.
We must be prepared. We have won the argument for a woman’s right to choose many times before, but we must continue to win it every day in the face of those who don’t trust us to be the decision-makers of our own bodies.
In the words of many before me; I can’t believe we’re still having to protest this shit.
Welcome to the fight. If you’ve never been involved in the pro-choice movement before, believe me, now is the time. Join us and bring your mums, sisters, partners and friends.
Here’s what you can do right now;
- Join Abortion Rights UK and add your voice to the pro-choice majority
- Donate to fund the fight we know is coming
- Share this article with your friends and family, we need their support too.
Dani Beckett, AR Executive Committee Member