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Charity criticism of Catholic Therese Coffey appointment over abortion stance 'utterly unsurprising'

by Sophie Drew
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A charity has criticised the decision to make Catholic MP Therese Coffey the Secretary of State for because of her views on abortion.

The newly-appointed deputy Prime Minister voted against extending access to abortion care, to allow women to take the abortion pills at home, instead of in a clinical setting.

The 'pills by post' scheme was introduced during the pandemic to lessen the number of people entering healthcare settings, due to the increased risk of contracting the virus and the additional pressure on the health service. 

Whilst Ms Coffey has said she would never condemn someone for choosing to have an abortion, she would rather they didn't go through with the procedure. 

In 2010, she introduced a motion suggesting mental health checks for women looking to terminate their pregnancy.

The motion said: "In its 14th March 2008 statement the Royal College of Psychiatrists advised that healthcare professionals who assess or refer women who are requesting an abortion should assess for mental disorder and for risk factors that may be associated with its subsequent development."

After she assumed the position as secretary of state for health and social care under Liz Truss' new cabinet, the chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service has said the appointment is 'dangerous.'

Ms Murphy said: "To have a health secretary who would place their personal beliefs above expert clinical guidance is deeply concerning."

However, Peter Williams, from the Anscombe Bioethics Centre disagrees. 

He told Premier Christian News: "It's utterly unsurprising that someone would say that from that perspective but, of course, the vast majority of people will just recognise that the views that 
Terese Coffey holds are simply one of the various many voices that we have in our society.

"Most of the abortion legislation - in fact, almost all the abortion legislation we've ever had -  has been a matter of a conscience vote in Parliament. 

So in other words, it's not been a government bill. It's not been a government amendment.

"It's been something which has been subject to a free vote in parliament, where each individual parliamentarian gets to vote on their according to their own conscience.

"So this is not a matter of a great change in policy from the government in terms of abortion." 

In a statement, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said: “Every politician is entitled to hold their own opinion on abortion. But what matters is whether they would let their own personal convictions stand in the way of women’s ability to act on their own.

"Earlier this year, the 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 including Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Midwives and the BMA. To have a Health Secretary who would place their personal beliefs above expert clinical guidance is deeply concerning."

"In the wake of Roe V Wade, and at a time when women in many countries are still struggling to achieve abortion rights, we need the UK to be a beacon for women’s reproductive choice. There are currently two women facing up to life imprisonment for trying to end their own pregnancies in England. Anti-abortion protest activity is escalating, with women and clinic staff facing intimidation while seeking to access and provide an NHS-funded service.

"Every week, women with complex medical conditions are forced to continue pregnancies against their will because of a lack of appointments within NHS hospital settings. We need a Health Secretary who wants to improve access to a medical procedure that one in three women will need in their lifetime, not impose further restrictions.

"We are a pro-choice country, and we have a pro-choice parliament. BPAS, alongside other women’s charities and healthcare bodies, will continue to work with parliamentarians to advance abortion rights regardless of which MPs form the next Cabinet.”


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