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New pregnancy line delivers

The new national pregnancy helpline has received three times more calls than the old service.

The new national pregnancy helpline has received three times more calls than the old service, which barred counsellors from discussing abortion.

The federal government established the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Helpline in July.

It was set up to replace the Howard government's contentious National Pregnancy Support Helpline, which declined to give abortion advice.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott set up the helpline in 2007, as health minister, after he had failed to stop the introduction of abortion pill RU-486.

The new $17.1 million pregnancy helpline has attracted 4000 callers in its first four months, a monthly average of 1000.

Its $15.5 million predecessor took 14 months to attract 4492 inquiries, producing a monthly average of just 320 calls.

While the new helpline has attracted more callers, the volume is still well below the federal Health Department's target of 60,000 inquiries a year.

But the funding over three years is expected to pay for more staff.

Currently 30 staff take calls, including counsellors, psychologists and service information providers.
Women aged between 25 and 34 have been the most common callers, with the bulk coming from NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

Unlike the old service, the new pregnancy helpline provides non-medical advice about newborn babies and breastfeeding, along with information on sexual and reproductive health.

Helpline co-ordinator Bernice Gray said the most sought-after information requests related to hospitals, mother and baby facilities, family welfare and crisis intervention.

Drug and alcohol support services for men were also high on the list, she said.
The helpline is run by the non-profit Royal District Nursing Service.

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