Fury over `lunch-hour abortions'

Pro-life campaigners were last night calling for an investigation into a charity offering a walk-in termination service aimed to fit into a woman's lunch hour.

The new abortion technique, which could take as little as 10 minutes, is to be offered by Marie Stopes International at clinics in London, Leeds and Manchester from next month.

Officials at the charity said they aimed to "remove the stigma" from abortion for women less than 12 weeks pregnant and to fit in with their busy working lives.

Josephine Quintavalle of anti-abortion group Life said: "This would be the ultimate in a fast economy, you have fast food and now you can have a fast abortion. It horrifies me and I would ask for an investigation into what basis Marie Stopes has a charitable status given that they make millions of pounds out of these procedures."

The clinics, which open on 2 July, will offer a "walk-in, walk-out" service for terminations of pregnancies of up to 12 weeks.

Abortions will be performed in less than 10 minutes, under local anaesthetic, using the vacuum suction technique.

Marie Stopes claims the pounds 300 procedure is the most important development since the Abortion Act of 1967.

The technique involves the minimal dilation of the cervix and is carried out using the vacuum aspiration method.

Afterwards, women will be given "some time to rest and compose themselves" before they go back to work. Marie Stopes says the daycare centres are aimed at "demystifying abortion by removing unnecessary clinical trappings", and "encouraging women faced with unwanted pregnancies to act quickly to avoid the emotional and physical trauma associated with later term abortions".

Dr Tim Black, the charity's chief executive, says the "pioneering and innovative" clinics are "the most important and positive development in abortion provision since the passage of the 1967 Abortion Act".

The latest techniques have made early terminations "a minor procedure that could be completed during a working woman's lunchtime break".

The concept of "quickie abortions" was condemned yesterday by Nuala Scarisbrook, a trustee of Life, the anti-abortion group. "This is yet another step in the trivialisation of human life," she said.

The clinics have already been opened in the US and Holland.The centres - three of which are located around London, the others in Essex, Leeds and Manchester - are the first stage in a nationwide network planned by Marie Stopes.

The one remaining barrier to an entirely trouble-free abortion, according to Dr Black, is "the outmoded 1967 legislation, which insists on the prior written consent of two doctors before an abortion can proceed".

The new clinics will comply with that requirement. Dr Black said: "It's up to our legislators to provide a new legal framework to match the service, and finally guarantee women's fundamental right to choose for themselves."

At present 160,000 women have terminations every year in Britain.

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