Public outrage at jail sentence for woman who took abortion pills later than UK legal limit
Hundreds of protesters lined the street outside the UK’s High Court on Saturday holding picket signs that read “Our bodies, Our right to decide,” before marching through the streets of central London demanding reform of abortion laws for England and Wales. A mitigation plea signed by medical groups was also sent to the judge.
Earlier this month, a British woman who used abortion pills to terminate a pregnancy after the UK’s legally allowed limit was sentenced to 28 months in prison under Sections 58-59 of the 1861 Offences against the Person Act, which prohibit the use of “poisons and other noxious things” to cause an abortion. The woman, age 44, has three children, including one who is disabled. She received the pills from an abortion clinic under the “pills by post” scheme, introduced during the Covid pandemic for home use of abortion pills up to 10 weeks, but only after a remote medical consultation. Her sentence was divided into 14 months in prison and 14 months on license after her release.
The number of women and girls in Britain facing police investigations and the threat of imprisonment for obtaining and using abortion pills at home without a doctor’s involvement has risen over the past three years, according to Bpas, one of the main abortion providers nationally. For example, in 2022, a woman who used abortion pills in a failed attempt to end her own pregnancy was reported to the police by her medical team.
One recent headline says it all: “Abortion prison sentence shows the law is focused on foetuses – that’s dangerous for women”.
SOURCES: The Conversation, by Emma Milne, 16 June 2023 ; CNN, by Sana Noor Haq, Niamh Kennedy, 23 June 2023 ; Guardian, by Tobi Thomas, 12 June 2023 ; PHOTO
Abortion clinic ‘buffer zone’ bill tabled in Scottish Parliament
A bill designed to ban protests outside abortion clinics has been lodged at the Scottish Parliament. Green MSP Gillian Mackay submitted the proposal, with the first vote expected in October. It has both government and cross-party support. It aims to create 150-metre “safe access” zones around facilities which carry out abortions and other health services, to stop anti-abortion protesters from harassing those seeking abortions.
Gillian Mackay said: “This is not about pitting rights against each other. It’s about allowing people to access healthcare where they need to. People are free to come and protest here outside the Scottish Parliament, where decisions around legislation governing reproductive rights are made. That is far more appropriate than harassing people who are going to express their bodily autonomy and receive health care.”
SOURCE: BBC, 15 June 2023.