ENGLAND – Young woman, 22, criminally charged with ‘procuring poison’ to abort her pregnancy

It seems the police in England are increasingly busy prosecuting women for having abortions under the 1861 Offences against the Person Act, which is still in force in England & Wales (as well as many former British colonies), which makes all abortions illegal. These are the same British police whose record on prosecuting men for rape and for violence against women is abysmal.

What is happening is that the abortion regulations were reformed near the beginning of the Covid pandemic in 2020, to allow women to obtain a prescription for medical abortion pills from a doctor to use at home. This was made permanent by the UK Parliament earlier this year, but telephone appointments to obtain the prescription are only permitted for home use of the pills up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. Previously, access to medical abortion pills was as follows: seeing a doctor for permission to have an abortion ; having a check-up and scan to check the length of pregnancy and for any problems such as it being ectopic; getting a second doctor’s permission; being given the mifepristone pill to take in front of the doctor and then being given the misoprostol pills to use 24-48 hours later at home.

The Covid home-use reform created a new legal problem, however, mostly unanticipated. With widespread experience for the past three years, studies in the UK have shown that most women (± 80% would prefer to have a self-managed abortion with pills at home, as long as back-up is available, if requested. The problem is that a few women have told the clinic (via phone appointments) that they are under 10 weeks of pregnancy, when in fact they are not. This year, two women have been “caught out” and charged for having illegal abortions (well beyond the 24 week upper time limit). We reported the first case in this newsletter several weeks ago — a 44-year-old mother of three who was sentenced to 28 months, half to be spent in prison. This caused a great deal of anger across the country. Unexpectedly, her prison sentence was suspended on appeal by a woman judge on 21 July who said compassion was called for, not incarceration. This verdict should influence a new case, which has just emerged from the shadows.

The new case involves a young woman, age 22, who has been charged with “procuring a poison” (1861 Act language – they were bona fide abortion pills) to “cause her own miscarriage” and “child destruction” because the pregnancy was beyond the 24-week legal limit. She was granted unconditional bail and told to appear at Teesside crown court on 14 August. This also happened during the first Covid lockdown in 2020.

SOURCE: Guardian, by Helen Pidd, 17 July 2023