Court Frowns Upon Jailing Women for Abortion, Advocates Compassion Instead

In a significant decision, a senior court has expressed reservations about incarcerating women for abortion-related offenses, asserting that such punitive measures are “unlikely” to yield a “just outcome.” This statement comes after the sentence of a mother, Carla Foster, was reduced from 28 months to a 14-month suspended term by the Court of Appeal in July.

Foster, a mother of three from Staffordshire, had confessed to illegally obtaining abortion pills during the lockdown. Her original sentence was found to have been incorrectly calculated, leading to the reduction.

Carla Foster obtained abortion pills by post from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). She indicated to the staff that she was seven weeks pregnant when, in reality, she was between 32 and 34 weeks into her pregnancy. After taking the pills, she went into labor on May 11, 2020, resulting in the birth of a baby who was not breathing.

Initially, Foster faced charges of child destruction but later pleaded guilty to an alternative charge of administering drugs or using instruments to procure an abortion.

Dame Victoria Sharp, along with Lord Justice Holroyde and Mrs. Justice Lambert, emphasized that this case warranted “compassion, not punishment.”

In their recent ruling, the judges cited a similar case involving a woman convicted of administering poison with the intent to procure a miscarriage, where the sentence was reduced upon appeal.

Dame Victoria highlighted, “We consider that in cases of this nature, there will often be substantial personal mitigation to balance against the seriousness of the charge, and that an immediate custodial sentence in such cases is unlikely to provide a just outcome.”

The judges noted that the original sentence had been miscalculated, and emphasized that there was significant personal mitigation in Foster’s case. Although she was not suffering from a serious mental illness at the time of the incident, she exhibited an emotionally unstable personality and endured significant emotional turmoil.

Dame Victoria acknowledged the trauma Foster experienced following the stillbirth and the subsequent guilt and depression. Notably, it was brought to light that during her imprisonment, she was denied contact with her children, one of whom is autistic.

This case sparked discussions and calls for changes in the UK’s abortion laws, highlighting the need for a more compassionate and nuanced approach to such situations.

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