Keep your rosaries off our ovaries…

Guest blogger Hang Bitch returns to Bright's Blog this time writing about the issue of abortion

Tory MP Nadine Dorries gears up to take another swat at abortion rights. Most women are very keen for Nadine to find another hobby.

Phd student Laura Schwartz, 25, was an organiser for one of two recent pro-abortion rallies in London. She, like many of us, was all set for combat, but finding the need for it very peculiar. 'The right to abortion needs to be fought for again,' she said, clearly perturbed by that fact. 'We want to do something that is direct action, where normal women can counter the pro-life brigade.'

Fair call to arms: those pro-life maniacs certainly need countering. Tory MP Nadine Dorries (the rather toothsome middle-aged blonde who famously finished just out of the medals in the recent most-fanciable MPs contest) has galvanised for Jesus H Christ and assorted Almighties and is about to table another private member's bill that compromises abortion rights (at the time of writing, the bill was still due to be tabled on 23 March).

Nadine's tried this before, and not so long ago: her last termination of pregnancy bill, which got a decided licking when it came to the vote, was an attempt to cut the time limit for legal abortion, and to bring a compulsory ten-day cooling-off period into frame for women who want abortions – ten days presumably being the amount of time the average female needs to work out that she's fluffed, and find God.

Nadine is not a pro-lifer, according to her blog. Alas, she remains a literal godsend to the (very) few people who are pro-lifers with this private bill: that lot will take any evidence that the Lord swings the pendulum in favour of their limping offensive. Dorries advocates cutting the time-limit for legal abortion from 24 weeks, on the grounds, it seems, that a baby might feel pain at that age (although that's also a point of vigorous debate) and that technical improvements - let's call it them improvements – make it possible to save babies born before they've spent 24 weeks' in the womb. A few technical go-getters have even managed to shave two weeks off the 24-weeks' gestation benchmark and resuscitated babies born at 22 weeks. By this logic, a late abortion is a sort of two-fingered salute to advances in neonate preservation.

The pro-abortion argument is, rightly, that (the very few) women who want safe, late abortions aren't particularly interested to know that the science is also right for people who want to break neonate-resuscitation records. Late abortion and premature-baby resuscitation are two completely different fields. It seems very unlikely that any woman ever wanted both at the same time. The two disciplines have nothing to do with each other. Those who pretend they do draw a very long bow.

There's not much doubt that we are very good at medical advance. The bit that we're not so good at, as Laura Schwartz rightly says, is the real-life, social-responsibility part of the reproductive picture. We're not, for example, very good at supporting mothers at work and at home. 'We are still in a very bad position in terms of equal pay, a living wage for working-class women, and benefits that single mothers can live on,' Schwartz says.

We are.It's not like things are improving in a hurry those fronts, either. People who are on benefits are already short of fans: anybody who fancies himself as a political chance floats the idea that everybody on welfare is a cheat, and then floats the idea of cracking down on welfare cheats. Women are still at a disadvantage when it comes to pay, promotion and flexible working arrangements. The eagerness MPs show to line up for God/Allah is chilling, too. The political stage as we have it is cluttered with a quite fascinating cast of religious zealots and/or Christian and Muslim toadies, all of whom have far too much say on subjects for which they have no sympathy whatsoever - ie, women, the entirely human contraceptive oversights that lead to unwanted pregnancy, and getting fired from your job when you get knocked up. Even the SWP has found Allah. Nadine may be no pro-lifer, but she is an opportunist. Why do female MPs want to give sexism a tail wind in this way?

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and senior industry figures are already questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment to opposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies  thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.