Emma Beck was a talented artist. When she found out that she was pregnant with twins she told her boyfriend (isn't it scary how boyfriends and girlfriends have taken over from husbands and wives?). Her boyfriend, whose identity has been protected, was most unhappy at the news and so he and Miss Beck decided she would have an abortion. She did and, overcome with guilt at the heinous thing she had done, she killed herself. She was found hanging at her home in Helston, England, on February 1, 2007. She was declared dead early the following day-her 31st birthday.
She left a suicide note that is absolutely heart rending. "I should never have had an abortion. I see now I would have been a good mum. I told everyone I didn't want to do it, even at the hospital. I was frightened, now it is too late. I died when my babies died. I want to be with my babies: they need me, no-one else does."
Miss Beck clearly stated in her suicide note that she had told the people at the hospital that she did not want to go through with the abortion. She was clearly troubled and in a volatile state of mind. She saw her family doctor before the abortion, but missed an appointment at the hospital. She then cancelled, but later turned up to an appointment at a clinic at another hospital. She needed to see a counselor but the counselor was on vacation. So a doctor referred Miss Beck to a pregnancy counseling telephone service eight days before carrying out the abortion when she was eight weeks pregnant.
This is the information that was presented to an inquest presided over by a lady doctor. She ordered that the identities of the doctor who performed the abortion and the woman's lead counselor be kept secret. Miss Beck's mother wanted to know why her daughter had not been able to see a counselor. The only answer she received was not an answer at all. It was an excuse from the hospital that, according to the abortion doctor, "It is normal practice to give a woman the number for telephone counseling when a counselor is not available." She added, "I am satisfied that everything was done to make sure that Emma consented to the operation," but went on to assure the inquest, "We have since appointed more counselors so there is more holiday cover."
The coroner recorded a verdict of suicide but found no fault with the hospital or the abortionist. She glibly stated, "It is clear that a termination can have a profound effect on a woman's life. But I am reassured by the evidence of the doctors here." If she was reassured, she must have been the only one. It was generally admitted that Miss Beck had problems with depression. Yet, despite her telling hospital professionals that she did not want to proceed with an abortion they pressed on anyway. That they obtained her later permission is not the point. How did they obtain it? What counseling was available? Why was there no hesitation in proceeding even after the doctor in charge had noted that she was alone and unsupported? If a church were accused by a suicide note of actions that contributed to the death of the victim the police would be all over the case and the press would be full of the story. But in England a coroner can bury the identities of those whose actions had an immediate influence on the commission of a suicide.