A British woman who was jailed for illegally taking abortion pills to abort her baby at home has been freed. The Court of Appeal ruled her case called for compassion, not punishment.
Mother of three Carla Foster was between 32 and 34 weeks pregnant when she carried out the termination at home during the first lockdown in May 2020.
She obtained the abortion pills from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) on the basis of the information she provided that led the abortion provider to believe she was only seven weeks pregnant, three weeks below the legal threshold for using pills sent through the post.
Ms. Foster’s lawyer Barry White, said there was a lack of “vital” reports into her mental health at the time of the offence and that “the obvious impact of the pandemic added to her already anxious state of mind”.
Mr. White also noted that Ms. Foster had voluntarily brought her actions to the attention of the police, adding: ‘Had she not done that, it is highly unlikely that she would have ever been prosecuted.”
Despite a plea for leniency from medical bodies and charities which wrote to the judge, she was jailed for two years and four months and required to serve a minimum of 14-months.
The Court of Appeal heard that during her 35 days in custody, she was refused any form of communication with her three children, one of whom is autistic.
The Daily Mail reports the case has sparked a major row involving pro-life groups, providers and politicians amid opposing calls for Parliament to decriminalise abortion or address the “inadequacy of the safeguards.”
BPAS and pro-abortion campaigners say the existing laws are “cruel” and “antiquated.” They want full decriminalisation to the alarm of Right to Life UK which is urging a full inquiry into how Ms. Foster was able to procure the pills from BPAS. The pro-life group is calling for legal protections for the unborn to remain, and a return to in-person appointments before abortions take place to ensure that the gestation of babies can be accurately assessed.
Right to Life UK’s Catherine Robertson, said: “The government must firmly reject changing legislation to make abortion legal right up to birth, as is proposed by abortion campaigners, led by BPAS, who are using this tragic case to call for the removal of more abortion safeguards and to build momentum for their campaign to introduce abortion up to birth across the United Kingdom.
“At at least 32 weeks or around 8 months gestation, Baby Lily was a fully formed human child. If her mother had been given an in-person appointment by BPAS, she would still be alive,” she added.
“Rather than take responsibility for sending out abortion pills 22 weeks beyond the legal limit for at-home abortions and risking the health of the mother as well as her unborn child, this same abortion provider, BPAS, is now cynically exploiting this woman’s tragic experience of using its abortion service to lobby the government to give in to demands from the campaign they are leading in order to introduce abortion up to birth,” Ms Robertson asserted.
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) is urging supporters to contact their local members to resist efforts towards full decriminalisation. Public Policy Manager Alithea Williams said: “We need to make it clear to MPs that this tragic case should not be used to remove all protection from unborn babies. Indeed, baby Lily’s death shows that safeguards around the pills by post scheme are entirely inadequate, and it should be scrapped.”
Bishop John Sherrington, the Catholic Church’s Lead Bishop for Life Issues, welcomed the court’s decision to show mercy and compassion to Ms. Foster so that she can be reunited with her children and her family life can continue, but he cautioned: “I raise again the concern that telemedicine (pills by post), which allows the home termination of pregnancies of up to 10 weeks, is dangerous for the health of women.”