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British Mother Jailed after Taking Abortion Pill

The BBC has reported that on Monday, 12 June, a  44 year-old mother of three, Carla Foster, was jailed for taking an abortion pill later than the legal limit in May 2020. Foster was sentenced to 28 months in prison. 

Foster took an abortion pill designed for early term termination during the later stages of her pregnancy. The United Kingdom allows for abortions until the 24th week of pregnancy. Before the 10 week mark, pills can be administered to terminate a pregnancy. However, after the 10 week mark, procedures must be conducted at a clinic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the government introduced a “pills by post” scheme to help women terminate unwanted pregnancies up to ten weeks without having to travel outside their homes during the stay-at-home lockdown mandate. 


Foster was between 32 to 34 weeks pregnant when she took this at home abortion pill designed for foetuses of under 10 weeks. Prosecutors in the case alleged that Foster intentionally misled advisory services about how far along she was.The  British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) claimed the information she had provided led them to estimate her to be 7 weeks pregnant. Evidence was found that she had searched for terms such as “how to have an abortion without going to a doctor”, “I need to have an abortion but I’m past 24 weeks”and, “how to hide a pregnancy bump.” 


Foster took the abortion pill on May 11, 2020. She then made an emergency call at 18:39 BST and told the emergency services that she was in labour. The baby was born during this call to the emergency services and was officially declared dead 45 minutes later. Post-mortem investigations found that the baby was stillborn and that the death was directly caused by the mother's ingestion of the pill.


Foster has three other sons, one of whom has special needs.She claimed to be going through “emotional turmoil” during the time as she moved back in with an ex-partner while she was hiding that she was carrying another man’s child. 


The court initially charged Foster with child destruction. She denied this and pleaded not guilty to this charge. Foster then pleaded guilty to another charge from section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which entails using drugs or other methods to procure an abortion illegally. This guilty plea was accepted by the court and she was sentenced to 28 months in prison, half of which will be served in custody. 

People have had mixed reactions to this verdict. Before the hearing took place, a letter co-signed by multiple women’s health organisations and key figures such as president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the president of the Faculty of Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare, was sent to the judge pleading for leniency and a non-custodial sentence. The judge did not let this letter sway his judgement. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he believed restrictions should be put in place in the right circumstances stating that the “laws [in the UK] as they stand balance a woman's right to access safe and legal abortions with the rights of an unborn child," and that he is “not aware of any plans to address that approach." BPAS figures on the other hand are appalled by the verdict and are calling for reforms on this “archaic law”. This verdict has only re-sparked the controversial discussions surrounding abortions and their restrictions.

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Tags: women women rights feminism england abortion uk united kingdom verdict rishi sunak women's health


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