Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Dorries on Abortion: One-Side View of Informed Consent

On Saturday, Dorries posted as follows:

Informed Consent

Further information regarding the reasons why we need informed consent.
We can no longer continue to harm women by witholding the facts. They have a right to know and a right to choose.

Women do have the right to know but that right extends to both sides of the debate. 

The paper to which Dorries links is a critical response to an  earlier article, the author [of the critical response] of which is a pro-life advocate.  Dorries doesn’t mention this.

In her speech in the Commons, Dorries says, “it is vital for women to receive information that is absolutely accurate”.  It is disappointing that Dorries doesn’t follow her own advice but gives only the pro-life view.

By the way I haven’t received a reply to my email to Dorries about errors in her speech to the Commons.

The original paper by Brenda Major  - she may be pro-choice: I don’t know - can be read here.

The critical paper by Priscilla Coleman – she is pro-life – can be read here.

Update @ 20 Nov 2010 16.35:  The link to Priscilla Coleman now works.  Thanks E.


  1. Position Statement on Women’s Mental Health in Relation to Induced Abortion
    14th March, 2008
    In the Government Response to the Report from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on the Scientific Developments Relating to the Abortion Act 1967, the following request was made:
    “In view of the controversy on the risk to mental health of induced abortion we recommend that the Royal College of Psychiatrists update their 1994 report on this issue”
    The College has undertaken a literature review to inform the following position statement, which includes the recommendation that a full systematic review around abortion and mental health is required.
    The Royal College of Psychiatrists is concerned to ensure that women’s mental health is protected whether they seek abortion or continue with a pregnancy.
    Mental disorders can occur for some women during pregnancy and after birth.
    The specific issue of whether or not induced abortion has harmful effects on women’s mental health remains to be fully resolved. The current research evidence base is inconclusive – some studies indicate no evidence of harm, whilst other studies identify a range of mental disorders following abortion.
    Women with pre-existing psychiatric disorders who continue with their pregnancy, as well as those with psychiatric disorders who undergo abortion, will need appropriate support and care. Liaison between services, and, where relevant, with carers and advocates, is advisable.
    Healthcare professionals who assess or refer women who are requesting an abortion should assess for mental disorder and for risk factors that may be associated with its subsequent development. If a mental disorder or risk factors are identified, there should be a clearly identified care pathway whereby the mental health needs of the woman and her significant others may be met.
    The Royal College of Psychiatrists recognises that good practice in relation to abortion will include informed consent. Consent cannot be informed without the provision of adequate and appropriate information regarding the possible risks and benefits to physical and mental health. This may require the updating of patient information leaflets approved by the relevant Royal Colleges, and education and training to relevant health care professionals, in order to develop a good practice pathway.
    These difficult and complex issues should be addressed through additional systematic reviews led by the Royal College of Psychiatrists into the relationship between abortion and mental health. These reviews should consider whether there is evidence for psychiatric indications for abortion.

  2. Ed

    In the post referred to here, Dorries is presenting one-sided information.

    Do you agree?

  3. I do not regard Dorries as an authority on the subject.

    Incidentally seeing as your Priscilla Coleman link no longer appears to be working but sending me back to Brenda Major. I'll add it here.


  4. Ed,

    Thank you, for this comment on Nadine Dorries,

    "I do not regard Dorries as an authority on the subject."

    But you did not answer my question which was, and still is,

    "In the post referred to here, Dorries is presenting one-sided information.

    Do you agree?

  5. Calum,

    Thank you for fixing the link.

    Regarding your qustion;

    Actually no, having re-read her statement in Hansard I am surprised at how little the accusation of one-sidedness sticks.

    Critically she doesn't give a pro-life argument. She makes a case for informed consent.

    But you say that she:
    'gives only the pro-life view'.
    This is simply not the case at all. Nothing she says is pro-life, in fact at times she sounds more like someone who is pro-choice, I quote:

    'Abortion is about the ending of a life, or a potential life.'

    'It is a woman's right to choose, and women should have the right to be given every shred of information that we have and every alternative option.'

    'If a woman wants to continue with her pregnancy and deliver her baby for adoption, she should have the right to choose to do so. If she does not, at least she can emerge from the abortion process feeling that she made an informed decision. She can emerge feeling that she went in empowered and not helpless, strong and not vulnerable, and believing that she did the best thing because she knew exactly what she was doing and had full knowledge of every available option. She will be able to draw strength from that in future.'

    'Women are entitled to an option. They are entitled to give [to be given] informed consent, which should be explicitly supported by pro-choice and pro-life campaigners.'

    She has drawn attention to an important issue. Her case might have been made with greater strength if you or I had proof read her speech, but we didn't.

    Ultimately attacking Nadine or criticising her is in my view a complete distraction from what is an important issue which is what should we be doing in Britain to fulfil our obligations regarding informed consent for abortion.

    Certainly we are failing on with regards to subsequent premature birth, the dispute over the breast cancer link has not been adequately settled and I don't think anyone can truthfully say that we do well by women with regards to mental health risks.

    This area is actually a potential consensus issue for sensible pro-lifers and pro-choicers.

  6. Ed


    I apologise for the lack of clarity on my part. When I mentioned ND's one-sided view I was referring to her giving only the paper by Priscilla Coleman in her blogpost of 13 November which is here.

    Her speech in the Commons certainly appeared to be much more balanced but others have cast doubt on that appearance.