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Tory MP who backed cutting abortion time limit named minister for women

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Tory MP who backed cutting abortion time limit named minister for women

Maria Caulfield, a Tory MP who supported cutting the abortion time limit and voted against buffer zones outside clinics, has been named as minister for women, prompting criticism from charities and women’s rights groups.

Caulfield, the MP for Lewes, was previously an officer of the all-party parliamentary “pro-life” group and voted against legalising abortion in Northern Ireland.

Harriet Wistrich, the director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, said: “We are horrified that a clear opponent of abortion rights has been appointed minister for women.”

“The vast majority of women want the right to choose,” she added. “Her appointment signals a potential restriction on women’s reproductive rights, which in turn is an attack on women’s autonomy and freedom. We hope Maria Caulfield will keep her personal opinions on the issue of abortion to herself.”

In 2018, when Caulfield was the Tory vice-chair for women, she called for a debate on reducing the 24-week time limit for women to receive legal abortions, describing the 1967 Abortion Act as “one of the most liberal abortion laws in the world”.

She urged her colleagues in the House of Commons to be “wary of greater liberalisation of the law” surrounding abortions, and said having to receive approval from two doctors before terminating a pregnancy protected vulnerable women.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, a charity that advocates for access to abortion, said: “Caulfield’s views are out of step with members of the public and her own parliamentary party.

“Recent amendments to establish buffer zones around clinics and secure at-home early abortion care have passed despite the opposition of MPs including Maria Caulfield.”

The charity said it was “profoundly disappointing” the prime minister did not think “a better choice for minister for women would be an MP willing to speak up for the one in three women who will have an abortion”.

The shadow secretary for women and equalities, Anneliese Dodds, said it was “deeply troubling that Rishi Sunak has appointed a minister for women who supports limiting women’s rights to abortion”.

“The government must be clear that a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion is not under threat,” she said.

Sunak has been accused of failing to represent women in his new cabinet, with about 23% of roles going to women, down from nearly a third under Liz Truss.

Mandu Reid, the leader of the Women’s Equality party, said the fall in women’s representation showed that Sunak had a “massive and deeply concerning blind spot”.

A spokesperson for the government’s equality hub said: “The minister for women has a strong track record of delivering for women in her previous ministerial roles.

“We will continue to pursue a compassionate approach to equality, ensuring that everyone is able to live their lives free from discrimination.”

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