British woman jailed for taking abortion pills after legal limit during lockdown

The 44-year-old mother of three obtained pills from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) during lockdown, under laws introduced in the COVID pandemic.

Is allowance instantly strangers applauded

A woman has been jailed for carrying out a late abortion on her baby of 32-34 weeks. 

The 44-year-old mother of three obtained pills from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) during lockdown, under laws introduced in the COVID pandemic.

They allowed women up to 10 weeks pregnant to have a phone consultation and receive abortion pills in the post to take at home.

The woman - who Sky News is not naming - lied to the service and claimed she was seven weeks pregnant.

After taking the pills, her 32-34 week foetus was stillborn.

The termination was eight to 10 weeks later than the 24-week legal period for having an abortion in England, Scotland and Wales.

Prosecutors said the woman had carried out web searches including: "Can being hit in the stomach cause a miscarriage?", "Where can I buy abortion pills in the UK?", and "I need to have an abortion but I'm past 24 weeks".

She took the two abortion pills on 11 May 2020 and paramedics came twice after she reported a miscarriage.

The woman initially lied and said she wasn't pregnant, and then made a second call after her daughter was born.

Attempts to resuscitate the baby were unsuccessful.

That evening, the woman searched: "Could I go to jail for aborting my child at 30 weeks?"

Nightmares and flashbacks

Judge Mr Justice Pepperall - speaking at Stoke Crown Court - said the woman had made a tragic and unlawful decision to obtain a very late abortion.

He said she knew her pregnancy was beyond the legal limit of 24 weeks and there was planning in what she did, albeit quite chaotic.

However, he took into account that she had shown deep and genuine remorse and is racked by guilt.

"I accept you have a deep and emotional connection with your child and have nightmares and flashbacks to your dead child's face," he told her.

The judge also spoke about the difficultly of balancing the law with a woman's rights to abortion. However, he said it was his duty to apply the law as it stands and that any change was a matter for parliament.

He said senior medical professionals had unusually written to him to request a suspended sentence given the nature of the case.

They said the telemedical service was a great advantage and that it had transformed care for some of the country's most vulnerable women and girls who find it difficult to access in-person services.

They voiced concern that her imprisonment may deter other women from seeking support and health.

Call for 'urgent reform'

The woman initially pleaded not guilty to child destruction, but later admitted an alternative charge of administering drugs or using instruments to procure abortion.

She was given a 28-month extended sentence and will serve 14 months in custody and the remainder on licence.

Following the sentence, Labour MP Stella Creasey called for urgent change.

"The average prison sentence for a violent offence in England is 18 months," she tweeted.

"A woman who had an abortion without following correct procedures just got 28 months under an 1868 act - we need urgent reform to make safe access for all women in England, Scotland and Wales a human right."

'Horrifying case'

A spokesperson for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children called it a "horrifying case" that involved a "fully viable baby of eight months" and said the woman was fully aware she was breaking the law when she lied to get the drugs.

However, it criticised the availability of abortion drugs via post and added: "The real fault in this tragedy lies strongly with abortion providers who pushed for dangerous home abortions, and are now using this case to push for abortion up to birth."