Page last updated at 15:25 GMT, Wednesday, 7 September 2011 16:25 UK

Nadine Dorries amendment to health bill debated

A bid to prevent organisations that provide abortions also offering counselling services to women seeking terminations has been defeated in the Commons.

As MPs debated the Health and Social Care Bill at report stage on 7 September 2011, MPs decided by 368 votes to 118, a majority of 250, against the move.

Tory MP Nadine Dorries, who led the campaign to change the law, said her amendment was about "a medical practitioner making an offer to a woman who presents at a surgery or their organisation with independent counselling - not compulsory".

She argued: "It must be wrong that the abortion provider, who is paid to the tune of £60m to carry out terminations, should also provide the counselling if a woman feels strong or brave enough to ask for it.

"If an organisation is paid that much for abortions, where is the incentive to reduce them?"

But shadow health minister Diane Abbott described the amendment as a "shoddy, ill-conceived attempt to promote non-facts to make a non-case".

She said: "The case this amendment is seeking to make is that tens of thousands of women every year are either not getting the counselling that they request or are getting counselling that is so poor that only new legislation can remedy the situation.

"This amendment is the opposite of evidence-based policy making," she concluded.

Health Minister Anne Milton told MPs that the government was "supportive of the spirit of these amendments".

But she declared: "Primary legislation is not only unnecessary but would deprive parliament of the opportunity to consider the detail of how this service would develop and evolve."

The bill, which contains the government's health service reform plans in England, was recommitted to Parliament in July after the government made a series of changes following widespread opposition among NHS professionals and patient groups.

The changes include adding hospital doctors and nurses to the new commissioning consortia - not just GPs, as proposed by the original bill - and scrapping an April 2013 deadline for the new bodies to take over.

The bill also includes plans to open up the health service to greater competition from the private sector, which unions oppose.

Watch parts two and three of this debate.


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