Abortion rights campaigners say they are “incredibly disappointed” Maria Caulfield has been made Conservative vice chair for women in Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle.
The Lewes MP said she was “delighted” with the job, which will see her serve alongside newly-installed party chair Brandon Lewis and vice chair James Cleverly.
But termination provider BPAS said it was dismayed at the appointment, as Caulfield has previously spoken out against the decriminalisation of abortion and shadow women and equalities minister Dawn Butler said the government’s decision was “appalling”.
In a blog post on her website, Caulfield said the legislation proposed by Labour’s Diana Johnson “completely neglected the rights of the unborn child”.
“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,” she wrote.
Johnson wanted to see a change in the law that would prevent women who accessed drugs for medical termination online from being prosecuted.
She said: “I wonder if any of us truly believe that those women, in such difficult circumstances, really should be seen as criminals. Let me be clear that decriminalisation will not mean deregulation.”
Under the Abortion Act, a termination not officially certified by two medical professionals is not legal.
In response to Caulfield’s appointment, the Hull North MP told HuffPost UK: “I am very disappointed that the PM has appointed Maria Caulfield to the role of vice chair of the Conservative Party with responsibility for women.
“This role should be held by someone promoting the equality of women and ensuring the laws Parliament enacts do not discriminate against women.
“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.”
Katherine O’Brien, head of media and policy research at BPAS, said: “We are shocked that the Conservative Party has decided to appoint as their vice chair for Women an MP who supports the criminalisation of women who end their own pregnancies.
“It is profoundly disappointing that the Conservative Party did not think that a better choice for vice chair for Women would be someone willing and able to speak up for the one in three women who will have an abortion in their lifetime.”
Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, said the appointment “made a mockery” of claims the reshuffle would boost equality.
“Women will never have equality until they have full control over their own bodies,” she added.
“Unfortunately this comes as little surprise from a Conservative party which stands behind Damian Green, Michael Fallon and Toby Young.”