Abortion isn't the issue, US-style religion is

I know Americans in particular will find this hard to understand but here in Britain, abortion is a non-issue. It doesn't come up at elections, we don't ask our political candidates about it and it rarely makes the news in any way. David, now Lord, Steel steered a Bill through Parliament in 1967 and, well, that was that. There are the occasional discussions about late term abortion but in general, it's settled and is well down the list of issues anyone brings up.

So this week was unusual in that it was debated. The spark was an amendment to the NHS Reform Bill put forward by the unremittingly loathsome Nadine Dorries. There's a lot of online comment about it that I don't need to repeat, the basic issue being how you define 'independent counselling.'

I was relived, but not surprised, that her silly amendment was duly thrown out but what bothered me about it was that the amendment was inspired by religious thinking of the type we normally only see in the US. Again, in contrast to politicians there, our current crop of political leaders are either avowedly atheist (Clegg and Milliband) or less than committed (Cameron says that, like listening to the radio while driving through the Cotswolds, his religion comes and goes).

As detailed by Polly Curtis and Ben Quin, Dorries was funded/advised by various religious groups with significant funding from the US. It was this aspect more than any other that prompted me to write to my (Tory) MP, Daniel Poulter. A new boy in 2010 and a former NHS doctor, I don't know anything else about him so I didn't know what to expect.

His reply to my e-mail was obviously a standard one he's sending to people who have written to him about the Dorries amendment. Nothing wrong with that, if I were him, I'd do the same. What I was pleased about was his hand-written customised line at the end:

Please be assured that I am proud of the liberal free speech tradition in the UK and agree that we must avoid US-style religious sentiment affecting British democracy.

Dr Dan Poulter MP went up a lot in my estimation for writing that.