Christian lawyers chide Marie Stopes for 'irresponsible' abortion hotlines

Abortion provider Marie Stopes' launch of a new hotline to provide counselling for women considering abortion, rather than face-to-face counselling, has been described as "irresponsible and a disservice to women" by the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship (LCF).

The launch on Monday of the telephone counselling line comes weeks after an inquest into the suicide of a young woman who hanged herself because she aborted her twins after receiving telephone counselling.

Emma Beck, 30, from Cornwall, was described by her GP as "extremely vulnerable" and had a history of anxiety and depression. She went ahead with the abortion after being given the number of the telephone pregnancy counsellor since the clinic counsellor was away.

Miss Beck's mother demanded to know why her daughter was not given more support or the opportunity to see a counsellor. Miss Beck was distraught after the termination and left a note before hanging herself which read: "Living is hell for me. I should never have had an abortion".

Andrea Minichiello Williams from the LCF said: "Unless we want more cases like Emma Beck's, we need to avoid telephone counselling at all costs."

Ms Williams said that telephone hotlines were "not adequate forms of counselling for women caught in one of the most momentous crises of their lives".

"Speaking to someone on the phone can never be adequate and compared to a face-to-face meeting," she said. "When a woman faces an unplanned pregnancy she needs time to consider all the options."

Ms Williams added: "Marie Stopes are well aware of the current parliamentary campaign on informed consent which seeks to change the law on abortion so as to provide women with full information about what they are doing.

"The 'telephone hotline' is a disservice to women and flies in the face of real protection for every woman."

Ms Williams also warned that mental health conditions associated with abortion, including depression leading to suicide, may not be picked up on a telephone call.

LCF is campaigning for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to include legislation that will ensure that women considering abortion know of all the associated risks.

"In practice not all women receive guidance and support, and when it is given it can vary hugely. Legislation should to be set in place through the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill so that all women receive the same information about abortion and are given proper support," the organisation said.

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