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Woman Released After Sentence Reduction for Illegal Procurement of Abortion Pills During Lockdown

A woman imprisoned for unlawfully obtaining abortion pills during the lockdown will be set free after the Court of Appeal intervened to reduce her sentence.

Last month, Carla Foster admitted to misleading the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) about her pregnancy, stating she was approximately seven weeks pregnant (within the legal limit) to get access to abortion pills. However, in reality, she was between 32 and 34 weeks pregnant at the time. 

The woman already had three children and got pregnant again in 2019. She stated not seeking medical attention during her pregnancy because she was “embarrassed” and had not realised how far along she was. 

As this incident happened during the pandemic, her appointment with the BPAS was through a phone call, and the service sent her the abortion-causing drugs in May 2020. She ingested the drugs and subsequently gave birth, although the child was already deceased.

At first, Foster faced charges of child destruction and pleaded not guilty. However, she later changed her plea to guilty for a different offence, which involved administering drugs or using instruments to procure an abortion.

Despite initially receiving a 28 months prison sentence, on Tuesday, July 18, 2023, the Court of Appeal reduced her sentence to a 14-month suspended prison term. This means that she will be released on the condition that she adheres to the court’s requirements.  

Dame Victoria Sharp, one of the three judges presiding over the case, stated “This is a very sad case, not least because of the length of the gestation when the offence was committed.” She also added that “it is a case that calls for compassion, not punishment, and where no useful purpose is served by detaining Ms Foster in custody.”

Foster’s lawyer attributed her actions to mental health issues and added that “the obvious impact of the pandemic added to Ms. Foster’s already anxious state of mind.” The lawyer also highlighted the fact that the woman willingly informed the police about her actions, and that “had she not done that, it is highly unlikely that she would have ever been prosecuted.”

While in jail for 34 days following her initial sentencing, Foster was not allowed to communicate with her three children.

Many women’s rights activists celebrated her release, viewing the law that led to her imprisonment as outdated. For example, co-direct of feminist campaign group Level Up Seyi Falodun-Liburd told The Independent: “While we are delighted that Carla has been released from prison, she should have never been put there in the first place.”

In conclusion, the Court of Appeal reduced Carla Foster’s sentence, deeming the initial punishment too severe. The decision was met with widespread public approval, as many were against her imprisonment.

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