Therese Coffey: New health secretary's views on abortion 'deeply concerning'

·Freelance Writer
·3 min read
Therese Coffey
New health secretary Therese Coffey previously voted against extending abortion rights in Northern Ireland. (Leon Neal/Getty)

New prime minister Liz Truss spent Tuesday night selecting her cabinet – and her choice of health secretary has raised some eyebrows.

Therese Coffey, regarded as one of Truss’ biggest political allies, has been appointed to take charge of the country’s health system

Since the announcement, Coffey's views on abortion have sparked criticism over her suitability.

Coffey, who has also been made deputy prime minister by Truss, previously voted against extending abortion rights, citing her Catholic faith as the reason behind her views.

Abortion campaigners have branded Coffey’s position on the issue as “deeply concerning”, saying it comes at a time “when women in many countries are still struggling to achieve abortion rights”.

Newly installed Health Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister Therese Coffey leaving Downing Street, London, after meeting the new Prime Minister Liz Truss. Picture date: Tuesday September 6, 2022. (Photo by Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images via Getty Images)
Therese Coffey was appointed health secretary and deputy prime minister on Tuesday. (Kirsty O'Connor/PA/Getty)

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), a charity that provides abortion care in the UK, said: “Earlier this year, our new health secretary voted to revoke access to at-home abortion care, and recriminalise women who end their own pregnancies without the approval of two doctors.

“In doing so, Therese Coffey voted against the advice of leading medical bodies.

“To have a health secretary who would place their personal beliefs above expert clinical guidance is deeply concerning.”

Watch: Ministers arrive for first Cabinet meeting with Liz Truss

The charity added that the UK should “be a beacon for women’s reproductive choice”.

When questioned about her stance on abortion this morning, Coffey told Sky News: “I’m conscious I’ve voted against abortion laws. What I will say I am a complete democrat… it’s not that I’m seeking to undo abortion laws.”

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour’s shadow minister for mental health, said: “Therese Coffey’s comments this morning will do nothing to put people at ease.

“Refuses to explain her anti-abortion stance, no mention of mental health and no plans for dealing with NHS backlogs."

Coffey previously said her decision to vote against extending abortion rights in Northern Ireland was because of her support of devolution and the UK Parliament not having a say on the issue.

Therese Coffey (centre) is the closest political ally to new prime minister Liz Truss (left). (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty)
Therese Coffey (centre) is the closest political ally to new prime minister Liz Truss (left). (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty)

Coffey has also said that she would "prefer that people didn't have abortions”, but added: “I am not going to condemn people that do.”

When questioned about her views on abortion, she told Sky News in June: "Abortion law isn't going to change in this country."

Coffey has also come under fire for voting against same-sex marriage in Britain in 2013, which some have argued could influence her decisions as health secretary.

Therese Coffey has also previously voted against same-sex marriage, citing her Catholic faith for her views. (Radid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency/Getty)
Therese Coffey has also previously voted against same-sex marriage, citing her Catholic faith for her views. (Radid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency/Getty)

Benjamin Cohen, from Pink News, tweeted: “If you didn’t know, Therese Coffey, the new deputy prime minister and health secretary voted against same-sex marriage and continues to say that she opposes equality for gay couples.

“How will this impact how she will handle the monkey pox outbreak among gay and bisexual men?”

Government figures show there were 214,256 abortions for women resident in England and Wales last year, the highest number since the Abortion Act was introduced in 1967.

Yahoo News UK has contacted the Department of Health and Social Care for comment.