Mother jailed for late home abortion after lying about pregnancy stage

A 44-year-old mother of three has been sentenced to jail for conducting a late abortion on her 32-34 week foetus. During the COVID lockdown, she obtained abortion pills from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) under laws that permitted women up to 10 weeks pregnant to have phone consultations and receive abortion pills by post to take at home. The woman, whose identity remains undisclosed, lied to BPAS, claiming she was only seven weeks pregnant. The foetus was stillborn after she took the pills, which were administered 8-10 weeks later than the 24-week legal limit for abortions in England, Scotland, and Wales.

The Crown Prosecution Service revealed that the woman had searched online for ways to induce a miscarriage and sources for abortion pills in the UK. On 11 May 2020, she took the two abortion pills and called paramedics twice, initially denying her pregnancy and later reporting the stillbirth of her daughter. Resuscitation attempts were unsuccessful. That evening, she searched online about the possibility of facing jail time for her actions.

At Stoke Crown Court, Judge Justice Pepperall acknowledged the woman’s tragic and unlawful decision to obtain a late abortion. He noted her awareness of exceeding the legal limit and the planning involved in her actions, despite the chaotic nature. He also considered her deep and genuine remorse and the guilt she experiences, including nightmares and flashbacks. The judge emphasised the difficulty in balancing the law with a woman’s rights to abortion, stating that it was his duty to apply the law as it stands, with any changes being a matter for parliament.

Senior medical professionals had unusually written to the judge, requesting a suspended sentence due to the case’s nature. They highlighted the advantages of the telemedical service, which has transformed care for vulnerable women and girls who find it challenging to access in-person services. They expressed concern that the woman’s imprisonment might deter others from seeking support and health.

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Initially pleading not guilty to child destruction, the woman later admitted to an alternative charge of administering drugs or using instruments to procure abortion. She received a 28-month extended sentence, serving 14 months in custody and the remainder on licence. Following the sentence, Labour MP Stella Creasey called for urgent reform, stating the need to make safe access for all women in England, Scotland, and Wales a human right.

A spokesperson for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children described the case as “horrifying,” involving a fully viable baby of eight months. They pointed out that the woman was fully aware she was breaking the law when she lied to obtain the drugs. However, they criticised the availability of abortion drugs by post, stating: “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.”

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Jamie Cartwright

Jamie is a keen traveler, writer, and (English) teacher. A few years after finishing school in the East Mids, UK, he went traveling around South America and Asia. Several teaching and writing jobs, he found himself at The Thaiger where he mostly covers international news and events.

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