Therese Coffey: Health secretary’s views on abortion and LGBTQ+ rights spark concern

·3-min read
Therese Coffey is the new health and social care secretary. (Parliament)
Therese Coffey is the new health and social care secretary. (Parliament)

Newly appointed prime minister Liz Truss has appointed Thérèse Coffey as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, as well as Deputy Prime Minister.

But the Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal’s new position as Health Secretary has alarmed women’s charities, who are concerned about her views on abortion.

Campaigners for LGBTQ+ rights are also concerned, as Coffey has repeatedly voted against equal rights for same-sex couples.

So how has the new health secretary voted on abortion care and LGBTQ+ issues and what has she said in the past?

What are Therese Coffey’s views on abortion?

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade, which removed women’s constitutional right to abortion in the US, Coffey said she would prefer that women “didn’t have abortions” but would not “condemn people that do”.

Coffey, who is a practising Catholic, also voted against making at-home abortion pills permanently available in England and Wales, after they were introduced during the pandemic.

At the time, she said she was "a democrat and the vote was won in Parliament by people who wanted to make that permanent".

Coffey added: "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."

In 2010, Coffey introduced a motion to Parliament calling for women seeking abortions to undergo mental health assessments.

In 2012, she defended Jeremy Hunt’s view that abortion should only be allowed up until 12 weeks of pregnancy, asserting that this was standard in a number of European countries.

However, according to the BBC, Coffey said abortion access already available in England will continue while she is health secretary.

What are Therese Coffey’s views on LGBTQ+ rights?

In 2013, Therese Coffey voted against allowing same-sex couples to marry.

At the time, she wrote: “Genuine concerns about the impact on society’s understanding of marriage and the bill’s implications for free speech and civil liberty have been swept aside.”

Coffey was one of 15 MPs who called for the same-sex marriage Bill to be thrown out, claiming that MPs were pressured into voting in favour of the Bill.

She signed a letter which said: “The main parties announced a free vote but we saw varying degrees of coercion with threats made, for example, to an MP’s future political career or withdrawal of party support at future elections.

“Regrettably, our ability as MPs to oppose, amend or scrutinise this Bill was heavily constrained.”

In 2019 she then voted against same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Coffey defended her beliefs in a 2020 Sky News interview, in which she said: “I took the view at the time, and I still hold to that, I have a strong faith background about what is a legal partnership and what is marriage, but that is not a question for today.

“I believe in live and let live, and I’ll be interested to see.”

In 2012, when a Twitter user asked her why she doesn’t agree with same-sex marriage, Coffey said: “I believe family is the main purpose of marriage.”