UK – A young couple have pleaded not guilty to illegally causing an abortion

A young couple, both age 23, appeared in a Crown Court in the west of England in February 2023, charged with allegedly illegally disposing of a baby’s body in the last months of 2018, when they were teenagers. Both denied all charges. They were released on conditional bail and the young man was ordered to surrender his passport. It is alleged that the pregnancy was past 24 weeks and that the alleged abortion was not carried out by a registered medical practitioner as required.

The young woman was charged with allegedly unlawfully administering “a poison or other noxious thing”, namely mifepristone, to procure her own miscarriage. Both were jointly charged with unlawfully procuring “a poison” from India to cause a miscarriage, contrary to Section 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861; concealment of the birth of a child, contrary to Section 60 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861; and committing an act with intent to pervert the course of public justice, contrary to common law, namely, disposing of the body of a fetus (described as a baby in the charges as per the Act).

In England, abortions are legal up to 24 weeks’ gestation if carried out by a registered medical practitioner, and can be carried out after 24 weeks only in very limited circumstances.

The Offences against the Person Act 1861 states that it is a criminal offence to use “a poison” to try to cause your own abortion. In previous cases brought in England, like this one, the fact that no “poisons” were used has been ignored, not challenged. The judge adjourned the case for a trial review hearing in May 2023.

SOURCE: BBC News Points West, by Steve Knibbs, 16 February 2023  + PHOTO: PA Media