Woman jailed for taking abortion pills after UK legal time limit during lockdown in 2020

The mum-of-three got hold of the abortion pills under the government's "pills by post" (stock image) Credit: AP News

A woman has been jailed after pleading guilty to procuring drugs to induce an abortion after the legal limit, when she was between 32 and 34 weeks.

The mum-of-three, 44, was sent abortion-causing drugs by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) after she called them during lockdown in 2020 and lied about how far along in her pregnancy she was, Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard on Monday.

The prosecution said the woman, who is not being named, made a number of internet searches between February and May 2020, including "how to hide a pregnancy bump", "how to have an abortion without going to the doctor" and "how to lose a baby at six months".

The woman, who had three sons before becoming pregnant again in 2019, did not see a doctor about her pregnancy because she was "embarrassed" and did not know how far along she was, the court was told.

She spoke to a nurse practitioner at BPAS, an abortion care service, on May 6 2020 and, based on her answers to questions about her pregnancy, it was determined she was only around seven weeks pregnant and she was sent abortion pills in the post.

Days later, on May 11 2020, having taken the pills, a 999 call was made at 6.39pm saying the woman was in labour.

Her child was born during the course of the phone call, prosecutors told the court.

The baby was not breathing and despite resuscitation attempts by paramedics, who arrived at the scene at about 7pm, she was pronounced dead at hospital around 45 minutes later.

A post-mortem examination determined the child was between 32 and 34 weeks' gestation when born.

Her cause of death was recorded as stillbirth and maternal use of abortion drugs.

The woman was initially charged with child destruction and pleaded not guilty.

She later pleaded guilty to an alternative charge of section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, administering drugs or using instruments to procure abortion, which was accepted by the prosecution.

The maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

Prosecuting, barrister Mr Robert Price said: "She lied to BPAS about how pregnant she was so they sent the tablets to her. She said she had not seen a doctor about her pregnancy because she was embarrassed.

"While the baby was not full term, she was approaching that stage of development. Multiple and prolonged internet searches showed a level of planning.

"The taking of the drugs was a planned and deliberate act in which her intention could only have been to procure an abortion."

Mr Justice Pepperall acknowledged it is an emotive case and said it was made more "tragic" because the woman did not plead guilty earlier, adding that he may have been able to consider suspending the jail sentence if she had.

He said the woman, who was given a 28-month extended sentence, will serve 14 months in custody and the remainder on licence after her release.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman, asked if Rishi Sunak is confident that criminalising abortion in some circumstances remains the right approach, told reporters: “Our laws as they stand balance a woman’s right to access safe and legal abortions with the rights of an unborn child, I’m not aware of any plans to address that approach.”

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