New health secretary Thérèse Coffey defends her anti-abortion views

Health secretary and deputy prime minister Therese Coffey arrives at 10 Downing Street on 7 September 2022

New health secretary Thérèse Coffey has promised she won’t try to undermine abortion rights in the UK.

Coffey was named deputy prime minister and health secretary in Liz Truss’ new cabinet announced on Tuesday night (6 September).

The new health secretary has repeatedly opposed LGBTQ+ and abortion rights citing her Catholic faith. She voted against same-sex marriage, the extension of same-sex marriage and abortion to Northern Ireland, making at-home abortion pills permanently available post-pandemic, and inclusive education.

But speaking to Sky News on Wednesday (7 September), Coffey said while she would “prefer that people didn’t have abortions… I am not going to condemn people that do”.

She added: “I’m conscious I have voted against abortion laws.

“What I will say is I’m a complete democrat and that is done. It’s not that I’m seeking to undo any aspects of abortion laws.”

Also on Wednesday, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) issued a statement describing Coffey’s abortion stance as “deeply concerning”.

Reacting to the statement in an appearance on BBC Breakfast, Coffey said: “Access to abortion is set out – it’s already available right across the United Kingdom. I have responsibility for England, and that access will continue.”

On her opposition to at-home abortion pills, she again described herself as “a democrat” and added: “The vote was won in parliament by people who wanted to make that permanent. There are many other people who are exceptionally pro-abortion who did not want that to happen.

“However parliament voted, it’s happened, and the regulations are already in place.”

Although host Jon Kay continued to push her, she said her “focus is on ambulances, backlogs, care, doctors and dentists”, before announcing she needed to leave.

Thérèse Coffey promises to fund health and social care from current taxes

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Thérèse Coffey was also asked about funding for health and social care under Liz Truss’ government.

Coffey insisted former chancellor Rishi Sunak’s proposed national insurance increase would not go ahead, but that the same amount would be invested from general taxation.

“We will continue to invest the same amount into health and social care that we would… through the levy,” she said.

Suggesting she would support greater use of private healthcare providers to clear the NHS backlog, she added: “I think we just need to use every capacity that we can, and we already use the independent sector in order to help patients get the operations that they need today.”