A Christian pro-life group is calling for people of faith to give grace to a mother sentenced to more than two years in prison for taking the abortion pill far beyond the legal timeframe – and says that the healthcare system is really the one to blame.
Carla Foster, aged 44 and a mother of three, received the abortion pill through the “pills by post” scheme, an initiative set up in the pandemic to allow women to have an abortion at home.
Outside that timeframe, women must attend a clinic to have the procedure done.
Coroners ruled the stillborn baby was delivered at 32-34 weeks gestation, shortly after the pill was taken.
The “pills by post” scheme, organised through the British Pregnancy Advice Service (BPAS), involved an online consultation, during which Foster lied about how far along she was, saying she was just seven weeks pregnant.
A baby born at 32 to 34 weeks gestation has a 95 per cent chance of survival, according to medical experts.
The case has sparked difficult discussions online about abortion legislation, with some saying it already goes too far, and others calling for a total ban on abortion.
Many have condemned the BPAS for the highly controversial “pills by post” scheme, and for allowing Foster access to the abortion pill in the first place.
“I think it's a very fair comment,” says Dawn McAvoy, campaign lead for Both Lives Matter.
“I think the for those people who are wanting to use this case to talk about the legal implications, and maybe law change, I think what we need to primarily focus on here is the health system that has failed this mummy, this baby, a system of abortion by post that actually, this is what it's designed to do.
“It's designed to not see people in person. It's designed to ask questions and have those answers given and just take it on a trust basis, when you have women who are in crisis situations who very likely will not tell the truth, because they're struggling so much.
“This is what the ‘pills by post’ system does.
“So for people who are wanting to just talk about law, and to still continue to support a ‘pills by post’ system, including the provider in this circumstance, that conversation needs to be changed to ‘is this system, looking after women?’ It's not. It has failed Carla, and there is no reason if this system continues that it won't feel other women and unborn babies in the same way.”
Following the sentencing, BPAS released a statement saying: “We are shocked and appalled by the decision to sentence a mother-of-three to 28 months in prison for using abortion pills to end her own pregnancy.
“No woman can ever go through this again. In their sentencing remarks, the judge made it that women will only be protected from prosecution if MPs bring forward legal change. The has never been a clearer mandate for parliamentary action, and the need has never been so urgent. Over the last three years, there has been an increase in the numbers of women and girls facing the trauma of lengthy police investigations and threatened with up to life imprisonment under our archaic abortion law.
They continued: “Vulnerable women in the most incredibly difficult of circumstances deserve more from our legal system.
“In 2020, MPs in Westminster amended the law in Northern Ireland to remove the threat of criminal sanction for any woman who attempted to end their own pregnancy.
“MPs must extend the same protection so that no more women in these desperate circumstances in the UK are ever threatened with prison again.”