A British woman who was jailed for illegally obtaining abortion tablets to end her advanced pregnancy is to be released from prison after Britain’s Court of Appeal reduced her sentence.
The mother of three, who is 45, was handed a 28-month sentence last month after she admitted to obtaining abortion pills to induce a miscarriage when she was 32 to 34 weeks pregnant in 2020.
The pills had been sent to her by post during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 and were meant to be used in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
Abortions in Britain are legal before 24 weeks and must be carried out in clinics after 10 weeks of pregnancy.
The prosecution said the woman had used her computer to search “how to hide a pregnancy bump”, “how to have an abortion without going to the doctor” and “how to lose a baby at six months” on the internet from February to May 2020 and lied to a pregnancy advisory service, saying she was seven weeks pregnant so she could obtain the abortion pills.
After receiving the drugs and ingesting them, she gave birth. The baby was pronounced dead after a call to emergency services.
Thousands of protesters, women’s rights groups, politicians and medics called on the British government to reform abortion laws after the woman was jailed.
Clare Murphy, head of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said she was “shocked and appalled” by the sentence and called the 19th century law used to prosecute the woman and others the “harshest penalty in the world”.
The woman’s lawyer said she had been denied communication with her three children since her prison sentence.
On Tuesday, three judges at the UK’s Court of Appeal, reduced her sentence to a 14-month suspended prison term. This means she will be released and would return to jail only if she breaks any requirements set by the court.
“This is a very sad case, not least because of the length of the gestation when the offence was committed,” Judge Victoria Sharp said.
“It is a case that calls for compassion, not punishment, and where no useful purpose is served by detaining [the woman] in custody,” she added.