It looked like a done-deal. Now, the people who thought they’d made the deal to allow a debate on pro-life pregnancy advice look as if they’ve been done over.

Today, in the coveted general business spot of Senate debate that belongs to the Democrats, a debate will finally take place over the cross-party Pregnancy Counselling (Truth in Advertising) Bill 2006 that Natasha Stott Despoja has been working on since 2005.

The bill applies the protections found in section 52 of the Trade Practices Act to pregnancy counselling agencies.

Many Australian pro-life groups deceive and mislead in their advertising. As well as only providing strictly limited information on options available to women, they appear to be following the advice of American pro-life marketing research on how best to convince “abortion-minded” women into ringing them. They try tricks like putting their ads under “pregnancy” in the phone book, and using words like ”caring”, ”free”, ”confidential”, and ”options” apparently do the trick.

Now, it looks as it there will be a debate – but no vote. And only limited debate. What’s more, it looks as if it could be the conservative blokes’ brigade of the ALP who will scuttle the legislation. Time may well just be allowed to run out.

Women from all parties have been supporting the legislation. Liberal Judith Troeth felt she had got enough women lined up to see the bill voted on – despite suffering a setback with the death of Senator Jeannie Ferris. Labor women such as Julia Gillard and Nicola Roxon were working their Senate colleagues.

But so has the blokes brigade; heavies, Crikey hears, like John Hogg – helped by a bevy of bishops in the background.

A measure that has support from Stott Despoja’s fellow Democrats, the Greens, and members of both the Government and the Opposition now appears to have been nobbled.