Labour fury as anti-abortion MP is made Conservative vice-chair for women

Posted On: 
8th January 2018

Theresa May's reshuffle sparked a row after a Conservative MP who opposed moves to relax abortion laws was made the party's vice-chair for women.

Maria Caulfield (third from the left) was among a number of Tory MPs taking vice-chair roles
PA Images

Maria Caulfield spoke out against an attempt by Labour MP Diana Johnson to prevent women who accessed drugs for abortion online from being prosecuted.

In a blog post 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."

Reshuffle confusion as Brandon Lewis replaces Patrick McLoughlin as Tory party chair

UPDATING LIVE: Theresa May's New Year 2018 reshuffle

Blow for Theresa May as James Brokenshire forced to quit Cabinet for health reasons

Hull North MP Diana Johnson told the Huffington Post she was “very disappointed” about tMs Caulfield's promotion.

"This role should be held by someone promoting the equality of women and ensuring the laws Parliament enacts do not discriminate against women,” she said.

"It is particularly concerning that last year Ms Caulfield spoke strongly against my proposal to update the 1967 Abortion Act to ensure that a Victorian criminal law no longer covered women seeking abortion – despite strong support from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Midwives.”

Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities Dawn Butler said the Prime Minister had made an “appalling” decision in handing Ms Caulfield the brief.

Abortion rights campaigners the British Pregnancy Advisory Service slammed the “incredibly disappointing” decision and said Ms Caulfield was “out of step” with the public.

In a series of tweets, they said: "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."

Sophie Walker, Leader of the Women’s Equality Party, said: "Women will never have equality until they have full control over their own bodies.

"For the Conservatives to appoint as vice-chair for women someone who seeks to limit women’s reproductive rights runs counter to the purpose of that role and makes a mockery of this weekend’s briefing that this reshuffle is designed to boost equality."

Meanwhile Ms Caulfield last week jumped to the defence of Mr Young when it emerged he had said a female MP had “quite a cleavage” and joked of another woman that he “had my d*** up her a***”.

Other Tory MPs Ben Bradley and Kemi Badenoch were among those handed vice-chair roles covering specific societal groups or policy areas. 

Elsewhere in the reshuffle Brandon Lewis replaced Patrick McLoughlin as party chair and James Brokenshire quit his post as Northern Ireland Secretary due to health reasons. 

Keep up to date with all the New Year reshuffle moves as they happen by clicking here for our live grid.