It has been announced that Maria Caulfield, an MP who is openly pro-life, has been appointed as the Government’s Minister for Women.
The decision to appoint Caulfield, who in 2018 called for the reduction of the abortion time limit, into this position has been met with criticism by many in favour of abortion. Perhaps the most notable of the criticism received was from the Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Anneliese Dodds, who described the appointment as “deeply troubling”.
The media has also shown high scepticism towards the appointment, and their depiction of Caulfield as an antagonist of women due to her stance on abortion raises the question: Can a pro-lifer be pro-women?
My short answer to this is ‘yes’. I utterly refuse to subscribe to the narrative that to be against abortion is to be anti-women.
Surely true equality is the protection of all? In its most fundamental form, equality requires all people, no matter their age, race, gender, sexuality or (dis)abilities, the right to life. To defend the right to life of the unborn is to stand for equality.
However, in my opinion, it is not being anti-abortion that makes a person pro-life. To be pro-life is to be pro-mother and pro-baby.
God values the unborn and the woman
In Psalm 139, we see the value given to the unborn life:
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”
But spread throughout the New Testament, we also see stories that tell of the value that Jesus gave to women too, particularly those who are vulnerable or who are often found on the outskirts of society. The relationship that He has with Mary Magdalene is just one of these. When Jesus first met Mary Magdalene, she was demon-possessed, which would have caused her to be shunned by her community. This didn’t scare Jesus away; instead, He cast out the demons and she became one of His closest acquaintances during His ministry, and one of the first to spread the good news that Jesus had risen from the dead (Matthew 28:1-10). Throughout His time on earth, Jesus treated women with dignity, met their needs and gave them a role in His ministry.
These passages display that God is both pro-baby and pro-woman, and as Christ-followers, we should be too.
We should be leading the fight for justice for young, single and vulnerable parents. We should be the people shouting loudest against current caps on child benefits and highlighting the insufficiencies in the support available for single parents. We should be calling for easier and more affordable access to high-quality childcare and ensuring that health services are properly equipped to support both mothers and children.
Championing the cause of the woman and the child
To have an equalities minister who recognises the unborn baby’s right to life has the potential to be a good thing but requires more of her than to be simply anti-abortion. I will be looking on with great interest to see what Maria Caulfield does with her role: to see whether she champions the cause of women, as well as the unborn throughout all policy areas in her brief (that extend much further than abortion policy and sit within three government departments). This will be the tell-tale sign of whether she was the right appointment to the role of Minister for Women.
And because I believe in true tolerance, not just one that accepts views that are similar to mine, I sincerely hope that Maria Caulfield uses her role to meet and engage with pro-choice campaigners, taking into account their concerns too. Healthy debate leads to stronger policymaking, and we would all do well to refrain from dismissing people we do not always align with.