Britain's first telephone counselling service for women considering an abortion has opened.

Marie Stopes International has set up the hotline to provide an alternative to face-to-face meetings. More than 650 women looking for counselling took advantage of the service during a six-month trial.

Liz Davies, the agency's UK and western Europe director, said counselling was "vitally important" for many women before and after terminations.

"The fact that women can now talk to a counsellor outside a clinical environment makes the service more accessible for many, both physically and psychologically," she said.

"Many women find it easier to explore their emotions on the phone rather than face-to-face, especially if they are within a familiar environment such as their own homes.

"Opting for telephone counselling also dramatically reduces the time a woman has to spend at a clinic, which is critical, particularly for post-abortion counselling," she added.

"By using the telephone counselling service, women can discuss their feelings without travelling back to the clinic where they had the procedure, which can be a difficult emotional journey."