A British woman, aged 45 and a mother of three, has been handed a 28-month sentence after admitting to illegally obtaining abortion pills to induce a miscarriage during her 32 to 34 weeks of pregnancy in 2020. The pills were delivered to her by post during the COVID-19 lockdown, but they were originally intended for use in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. In the UK, abortions are legally allowed before 24 weeks and must be conducted in clinics after 10 weeks of pregnancy.
The Case and Prosecution
The prosecution revealed that the woman had used her computer to search for information on hiding a pregnancy bump, having an abortion without seeing a doctor, and losing a baby at six months. Additionally, she lied to a pregnancy advisory service about being seven weeks pregnant to obtain the abortion pills. After taking the drugs, she gave birth and the baby was declared dead after emergency services were called.
Protests and Calls for Abortion Law Reforms
Following her imprisonment, numerous protesters, women’s rights groups, politicians, and medical professionals urged the British government to reform abortion laws. Clare Murphy, the head of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, expressed shock and outrage at the sentence, deeming the 19th century law used for prosecution as the “harshest penalty in the world” for such cases.
Sentence Reduction and Release
The woman’s lawyer highlighted that she had been denied contact with her three children throughout her prison term. On Tuesday, the Court of Appeal reduced her sentence to a 14-month suspended prison term. This means she will be released and would only return to jail if she violates any court-imposed requirements. Judge Victoria Sharp emphasized that this case called for compassion rather than punishment, stating that detaining the woman in custody would serve no useful purpose.