An MP who defends unborn children has been made Tory vice-chair for women. Maria Caulfield, who is MP for Lewes, was appointed to the position in Theresa May’s reshuffle. Caulfield opposed a bill last year which would have decriminalised abortion. She said at the time: “Too often today, debates about abortion – about the risks involved and the rights of the unborn child – are shut down”, and that she and others wanted to be “a voice for the voiceless”.
What the media said
Media coverage was dominated by the reaction of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the country’s biggest abortion provider, which said it was “incredibly disappointed”, since Caulfield “supports the criminalisation of women who end their own pregnancies”. The BBC’s headline read “MP’s new women’s role sparks backlash”.
But inews.co.uk gave Caulfield the chance to defend herself. “When as a legislator I am concerned that a change in the law will adversely affect vulnerable women or babies that are female,” she wrote, “then absolutely I have a right to speak out about this.” The MP said that the current law results in very few prosecutions, but does protect women “who might be pressurised by an abusive partner or family member to have an abortion”.
What pro-life groups said
A spokeswoman for Life charity said: “We believe that Ms Caulfield’s background, coming from a council estate, makes her well qualified to understand and identify with the issues and challenges that many women face, especially those thousands of vulnerable women we support at Life. We are not surprised at the intimidatory response from the abortion industry.”
Right to Life pointed out that, on the subject of decriminalisation, Caulfield was much closer to public opinion than her critics. According to ComRes, “only one per cent of women favour increasing the upper limit beyond 24 weeks (and another one per cent who favour abortion up to birth). By contrast, the same May poll found that 70 per cent of women want the upper abortion limit lowered, with 59 per cent favouring it to be lowered to at least 16 weeks.”
✣Priest ‘under threat’ as crisis hits Honduras
The Latin American Jesuits have defended a member of the Society who has spoken out against the Honduran government. Fr Ismael Moreno Coto criticised president Juan Orlando Hernández, who was elected in November in a vote marked by irregularities. Fr Moreno has faced an online campaign accusing him of links to drug traffickers.
Why was it under-reported?
How many British readers could tell you that Honduras has held elections recently, let alone who won them? The vote did gain some media attention – especially after protests turned violent. But the world’s attention has turned elsewhere. And the government’s critics are under pressure: the Conference of Provincials in Latin America and the Caribbean says the campaign against Fr Moreno, who works for the Jesuit-run radio station Radio Progreso, is “reminiscent of death threats which circulated in El Salvador” before the murder of Fr Rutilio Grande in 1977.
What will happen next?
Last week protesters returned to the streets, headed by opposition leader Salvador Nasralla, who told them: “We will not stop until Hernández says he’s leaving”. The Organisation of American States has said that the election results included “extreme statistical improbability”. Fr Moreno may exemplify the Church’s difficult position: Fr Roberto Jaramillo, his colleague at Radio Progreso, told America magazine: “It is not just about Melo [Fr Moreno] but all the people who are working in … Radio Progreso’s team.”
✣The week ahead
Pope Francis will embark on a week-long trip to Chile and Peru on Monday. His first stop is the Chilean capital of Santiago, where he will visit the shrine of St Alberto Hurtado, a 20th-century Jesuit priest who is seen as a national hero because of his work for the poor. Later, in the south, he will have lunch with Mapuche indigenous people. He will fly to Peru on Thursday.
America’s 45th March for Life is next Friday. Catholics taking part are able to receive a plenary indulgence, two local dioceses have said. The indulgence requires Confession, reception of Holy Communion and praying for the Pope’s intentions.
On Sunday the Pope will celebrate Mass to mark the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Francis began the year by praying that such travellers would be treated better. He told 40,000 people in St Peter’s Square that many were risking their lives for peace on “long and dangerous” journeys. “Let’s not extinguish the hope in their hearts,” he said.