The Conservative Party’s new vice chair for women, MP Maria Caulfield, strongly opposed legislative reform that would see furthering of abortion rights in the UK, leaving pro-choice campaigners reeling in horror.
The Lewes MP’s new role, she was appointed Monday’s cabinet reshuffled, sparked outrage from Labour MPs after it emerged that Caulfield had opposed moves to relax abortion laws. Commentators on Twitter considered the appointment as a symbol of the influence that Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has over the Conservatives. The DUP has fought consistently to block abortion rights afforded to women in the rest of the UK.
Everyone criticises the DUP for not wanting the same legislation re: abortion in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. This shows otherwise: the rest of the UK might finally adopt the same policies as Northern Ireland. https://t.co/Uh9rp6QRMT
— Alessandro Mencarini (@amencarini) January 8, 2018
Caulfield led opposition to last year’s campaign to decriminalise abortion, arguing that unborn children should have more rights. The action, spearheaded by Labour MP Diana Johnson, fought to protect women who sought abortion drugs online from prosecution.
Labour’s Dawn Butler called the Prime Minister’s choice an “appalling decision”. The Shadow women and equalities secretary said “women deserve to have the strongest advocates at the top of politics, not people who seek to restrict their rights and freedoms.”
Appalling decision by @Theresa_May to promote Maria Caulfield to Vice Chair for Women given her stance on abortion. Women deserve to have the strongest advocates at the top of politics, not people who seek to restrict their rights and freedoms.
— (((Dawn Butler MP))) (@DawnButlerBrent) January 8, 2018
The British Pregnancy Advice service described Caulfield’s appointment as “incredibly disappointing,” the organization said in a statement, adding “This is not an abstract issue. Women in across the UK have faced prosecution and prison sentences for ending pregnancies using abortion medication bought online. These are often women in the most desperate of circumstances. One study found 1 in 5 who tried to use online abortion medication were in a violent or controlling relationship. Should these women face criminal prosecution?”, “According to the new CCHQ vice chair for women, yes.”
In May, Caulfield spoke out against Johnson’s ten-minute rule bill to decriminalise the attaining of abortion drugs, stating that “[She] and [her] colleagues will not be silenced as we seek to be the voices of the voiceless.”
While in a blogpost released at the time, the Lewes MP wrote: “More must be done to effectively combat the dangerous liberalisation of abortion, which hides under the premise of championing women’s rights, but does this at the expense of negating the protection of unborn children.”
Caulfield took to twitter last week to defend the controversial new government-appointed university regulator Toby Young, who has faced accusations of sexism, classism and homophobia.
As a working class kid who went to school in the socialist state of Lambeth where more kids ended up in prison than university, why the outrage at the appointment of @toadmeister ? He’s set up schools that have helped thousands of working class kids
— Maria Caulfield MP (@mariacaulfield) January 1, 2018
In the wake of her appointment, Caulfield tweeted about her efforts to ensure women in prison have access to sanitary items.