The Conservative Party’s new Vice-Chair for Women has hit back after members of the abortion lobby criticised her appointment.
Ms Caulfield, who will be responsible for increasing the representation of women in the party, has opposed so-called “decriminalisation” of abortion, which would effectively remove nearly all regulations on the practice.
Polling suggests the majority of women support her opinion, but her appointment caused a storm among activists on Twitter and in some parts of the secular media.
BPAS, Britain’s largest abortion provider, tweeted that it was “incredibly disappointed” with the decision. It also criticised Ms Caulfield for saying she wanted to be a “voice for the unborn child” and questioned her suitability for her new role.
Maria Caulfield MP, the new Conservative Vice Chair for Women, seeks to be a “voice for the unborn child.” pic.twitter.com/An2AhTB8fE
— bpas (@bpas1968) January 8, 2018
BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg then cited BPAS’s reaction, describing Ms Caulfield’s appointment as a “glitch”. A BBC News report followed, saying “women’s rights groups” had criticised the appointment. It also described BPAS’s “shock” at the appointment.
After the Grayling mystery, reshuffle glitch number 2 – Maria Caulfield new tory vice chair opposed decriminalising abortion – BPAS response https://t.co/sZ8h7fd4bK
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) January 8, 2018
However, Ms Caulfield has responded in inews, describing the backlash as “ridiculous”.
“The current law is a safeguard because it protects vulnerable women who might be pressurised by an abusive partner or family member to have an abortion,” she said. “In my couple of years as an MP I’ve never had one woman come to me saying she is having difficulty accessing an abortion.”
“It’s not my place to judge any woman who wanted to have an abortion but when as a legislator I am concerned that a change in the law will adversely affect vulnerable women or babies that are female, then absolutely I have a right to speak out about this,” Ms Caulfield added.
“It’s a sad day in this country if you can’t have a different view to someone. To say that someone who has a different view cannot represent women is absolutely ridiculous.”
She also posted a link on her website to a speech she gave last year opposing the relaxation of abortion laws.
A survey by ComRes last October showed the vast majority of women are opposed to “decriminalisation”, and a sizable number would like greater restrictions on abortion.