After a woman was imprisoned, the chair of the Commons equalities committee stated that Parliament should discuss changing abortion regulations.
The BBC was informed by Caroline Nokes MP that the 1861 law that was used to prosecute Carla Foster was “out of date.”
The 44-year-old was found guilty of using pills at home to induce an abortion beyond the legal limit.
After she received a sentence of 28 months, 14 of which will be spent in custody, campaigners called for change.
According to Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court, Foster took the medication through the “pills by post” program that was implemented during lockdown when she was between 32 and 34 weeks pregnant.
After 10 weeks, abortion must be performed in a clinic, and it is legal up to 24 weeks.
Foster initially pleaded guilty to an offense under Section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861, despite her denial of the charge of child destruction.
Women “who use drugs or instruments” that are “unlawfully administered” in order to induce an abortion face the possibility of being “kept in penal servitude for life” under the law.
Although the Abortion Act of 1967 made abortion legal, the 1861 law was not repealed. This means that women still face life in prison if they have an abortion longer than the time allowed by law.
MPs should “decide in the 21st century whether we should be relying on legislation that is centuries old,” according to Ms. Nokes, who serves as the chair of the Commons Women and Equalities Committee.
The Conservative MP told BBC Radio 4’s Reality This evening program: ” This is not a topic that has been discussed in depth in recent years.
“Also, despite being tragic and thankfully uncommon, incidents like this highlight how out-of-date our legal framework is. It argues in favor of Parliament beginning an in-depth examination of this matter.”
In an interview with BBC Two’s Newsnight, Labour MP Stella Creasy also called for immediate reform: I have no idea who was interested in this case.
The Alliance of Pro-Life Students director, Madeline Page, said she would welcome a debate in parliament and called the situation a “sad situation.”
Women like Foster were “left to self-administer these drugs alone with no medical supervision or support,” according to the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, an organization that opposes abortion. The organization also criticized providers for “pushing for dangerous home abortions.”
However, at-home abortions, according to providers, “rarely have any long-term health effects” and “usually easy to treat” the most common side effects.
One of thirty health and campaign groups urging the law’s repeal is the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which would make it easier for women to end their own pregnancies.
Clare Murphy, CEO of BPAS, stated on BBC Radio 4’s Today program: A mother of three is currently facing prosecution under laws that are unique to her country.
She stated that “a growing number of women” were being investigated by the police for allegedly performing illegal abortions, and that one woman would be tried later this year.
The Crown Prosecution Service’s spokesperson stated that cases like Carla Foster’s were “exceptionally rare… complex and traumatic.”
They continued, When making difficult charges, our prosecutors have a responsibility to ensure that Parliament’s laws are properly considered and applied.”
Downing Street stated that while it was aware that abortion was “a highly emotive issue and there is a strength of feeling on all sides,” the “law is clearly set out”
The spokesperson added, “It’s up to the police and the judiciary to enforce it.”
The chair of the home affairs select committee, Dame Diana Johnson, demanded that the government make abortion illegal.
She stated on the Today program on BBC Radio 4: The removal of the criminal law is a very sensible and reasonable step, but it does not deregulate who can provide abortion care.
Foster was accused by the CPS of providing false information during a remote medical consultation and being aware of abortion restrictions.
Her defense claimed that lockdown and a reduction in the number of face-to-face appointments had altered access to healthcare, adding: She will always be haunted by this.”
On May 11, 2020, Foster went into labor, and 45 minutes later, it was determined that the baby had died.
The Staffordshire woman, 44, was carrying a baby from another man when she moved back in with her ex-partner at the start of the lockdown, according to the court.
During the sentence, Mr. Justice Edward Pepperall acknowledged that she had been “in emotional turmoil” while attempting to conceal her pregnancy.
He stated that she was a good mother to her three sons, one of whom has special needs, and that if there had been an earlier guilty plea, a suspended sentence might have been possible.
However, he denied women’s health groups’ requests for a non-custodial sentence, stating that the court was obligated to “apply the law as provided by Parliament.”
A letter calling for a non-custodial sentence was sent to the court prior to the hearing on Monday. It was co-signed by a number of organizations that promote women’s health.
“Concerned that your imprisonment might deter other women from accessing telemedical abortion services and other late-gestation women from seeking medical care or from being open and honest with medical professionals,” the judge stated to the defendant in the letter.
“Has the potential to be seen as special pleading by those who favor wider access to abortions and is, in my judgment, just as inappropriate as it would be for a judge to receive a letter from one of the groups campaigning for more restrictive laws,” he added.