Calls to strip minister of abortion role after she opposed legislation in Northern Ireland

Maria Caulfield (Photo: Getty / UK Parliament)
Maria Caulfield (Photo: Getty / UK Parliament)

Clinics are calling for the minister in charge of abortion services to be stripped of her role after she opposed legislation in Northern Ireland.

It has emerged that the minister for women Maria Caulfield holds a specific responsibility for abortion in her second role as a health minister.

Her appointment has sparked fury from providers and campaigners who say her views on abortion are “very worrying”.

The Tory MP for Lewes has opposed legalising abortion in NI and claimed protesters outside clinics may simply want to “comfort” women.

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

She has opposed legislation establishing buffer zones around abortion clinics saying they might be trying “comfort” someone who is distressed.

Protests outside abortion clinics often feature graphic images of foetuses and women and staff have said they felt harassed.

Caulfield has also voted against making early abortion services permanently available to women at home in England and was previously an officer of the all-party parliamentary “pro-life” group.

Clare Murphy, chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: “This is an absolute slap in the face to the women of this country and suggests a complete disregard for their needs.

“Unlike any other area of healthcare, decisions regarding the licensing of abortion clinics sit with the relevant government minister. Maria Caulfield potentially now has the ability to block the establishment of new abortion services.”

Murphy added: “We urge the prime minister to revoke this appointment before Maria Caulfield has the chance to jeopardise women’s access to safe, legal, NHS-funded abortion care.”

Louise McCudden of MSI Reproductive Choices, the organisation formerly known as Marie Stopes International, described Caulfield’s voting record as “very worrying”.

The department of health said abortion is an issue on which the government adopts a neutral stance and it is for parliament to decide the circumstances under which abortions should take place.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.