Leading Article: Out to lunch and out of place

A Woman's right to abortion in specified circumstances is sanctioned by law in this country. Not everyone is happy with that, and so, maybe rightly, there is a permanent (and frequently intemperate) debate on the issue. Any new application of the law, or any advance in medical technology, is subject to fierce scrutiny by the media, urged on by a vociferous "pro- life" lobby. Which makes it all the more astonishing that the charity Marie Stopes International has committed such a public relations blunder in describing its new day-care centres as offering "a minor procedure that could quite easily be completed during a working woman's lunchtime break". Not only is such language guaranteed to offend deeply held beliefs, it is also patronisingly cheery to the "working women" MSI believes it is championing. Women will welcome a simpler and faster procedure requiring only local anaesthesia, but they will not, we are certain, be popping out of the office in a spare moment to have a termination. Abortion will remain a serious and, for some women, agonising decision.

Some 40 per cent of the abortions provided by MSI are carried out for the NHS under contract. When its chief executive says "We're offering women total convenience in the delivery of a quality service", we hear not the measured words of an organisation dedicated to providing a sensitive service to women at a sad moment in their lives, but the harsh marketing

language of convenience shopping. By describing abortion in such "stop me and buy one" terms, MSI has demeaned the women it was set up to help.