A Catholic Member of Parliament who was appointed yesterday to the role of Health Secretary in the UK has come under fire for her pro-life views.
Following the announcement that Liz Truss, the previous Foreign Secretary, was to replace Boris Johnson as the UK’s new Prime Minister, it was later announced that Therese Coffey had accepted the new role of Health Secretary, prompting scrutiny from some quarters about the influence of her Catholic faith.
Clare Murphy, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, told the BBC that she was deeply concerned about the appointment, given that Coffey recently voted against making at-home abortion pills permanently available to women in England and Wales.
She said that Coffey’s vote went “against the advice of leading medical bodies including Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Midwives and the BMA.” She added: “To have a health secretary who would place their personal beliefs above expert clinical guidance is deeply concerning."
But Coffey has already made clear that she does not intend to change the law relating to abortion.
Speaking to Sky News on Wednesday, she said, “I’m not seeking to undo any aspects of abortion law” on the grounds that she was “a complete democrat” and Parliament had already voted on different aspects of abortion law.
Coffey has previously said that she would "prefer that people didn't have abortions but I am not going to condemn people that do."
Therese Coffey previously served as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions from 2019 to 2022 and has long described herself as a practicing Catholic.
She has voted against same-sex marriage legislation, the liberalization of abortion laws, and she described voting against assisted suicide in 2015 as one of her “proudest days” as an MP, in an interview with Conservative Home in March 2021.
In the same interview, when asked whether it was now more difficult to be a Catholic in politics, she said she wasn’t sure but added: “Sometimes people of faith just have different views on certain matters.
“I’m a great believer in live and let live, and not condemning other people for choices they make or for approaches they take," Coffey said, adding: "I have very different views to some of my friends say on assisted suicide. That day, 11th September 2015, is one of the proudest days in my time as an MP to stop that Second Reading [of the Assisted Dying Bill]. And I’ve got friends who completely disagree with me, and that’s OK."
“People do talk about having a kinder politics. An element of a kinder politics is not calling other people with different views bigots because you don’t agree with them. People are bigots for calling other people bigots in a way, if that makes sense.”