The Dutch politician and pro-abortion campaigner Lilianne Ploumen has been made a dame in the pontifical Order of St Gregory the Great, with the Vatican claiming that the award was part of a standard procedure.

A Vatican spokeswoman said the award was “diplomatic practice” when an official is part of a state visit to the Vatican. The medal was “in keeping with the diplomatic practice of exchanging honours between delegations during official visits by heads of state or government to the Vatican,” the spokeswoman said.

“Therefore, it is not at all an endorsement of the political views in favour of abortion or birth control that Ms Ploumen promotes.”

Ms Ploumen said: “I assume I have been granted the pontifical medal in the context of the Dutch state visit to the Vatican in June 2017.” She was part of the delegation as the then trade minister.

It is not known whether the Pope was aware of the decision.

Ms Ploumen, a senior Labour Party figure, has been criticised for her record on life issues. Last year she launched a campaign to support abortion after the US government cut off funding for overseas NGOs which provide, facilitate or campaign for abortion.

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