Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Bishop welcomes release from jail of mother who aborted baby at eight months

Opposition to assisted suicide a matter of reason as well as faith | ICN

A Catholic bishop has welcomed the release from jail of a woman who killed her unborn baby in a late term abortion as an act of “mercy and compassion”.

Three judges of the Court of Appeal ordered the release of Carla Foster who was sentenced to 14 months’ in jail after lying to obtain abortion pills to kill her baby at eight months’ gestation – almost two months beyond the legal upper limit.

Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster, the lead bishop for life issues of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said he agreed with the decision of the appeals court in ordering Foster’s immediate release.

Bishop Sherrington said: “I reiterate the consistent teaching of the Church that both the mother and the unborn child should be afforded the protection of the law and that abortion is always a tragedy for all concerned.

“It is important that the law which protects the life of the unborn child is upheld.

“In this case I welcome the court’s decision to show mercy and compassion so that Carla Foster is reunited with her children and her family life can continue.”

He added: “I raise again the concern that telemedicine (pills by post), which allows the home termination of pregnancies of up to 10 weeks, is dangerous for the health of women.”

Foster, 44, took the abortion-inducing drugs sent to her in the post when she was between 32 and 34 weeks pregnant.

The upper time limit for abortion in the UK is 24 weeks but Foster, a mother of three, said she was too embarrassed to see a doctor when she conceived in 2019 and did not know how advanced her pregnancy was.

She had been searching the internet for ways of ending a late pregnancy and when Health Secretary Matt Hancock permitted abortion pills to be sent through the post in March 2020, at the start of lockdown, she obtained the mifepristone and misoprostol through the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.

Previously women seeking an abortion would be required to attend an in-person appointment in a clinic before taking the pills at home.

Foster wanted to abort her child because during lockdown she had moved back in with her “long-term but estranged partner” who was not the father of the child.

Her daughter Lily was born stillborn and Foster was prosecuted under section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which prohibits the administration of drugs or using instruments to procure abortion.

She pleaded guilty and before she was sentenced the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Midwives and other health bodies had urged the judge at Stoke on Trent Crown Court not to send her to jail.

They argued that a custodial sentence would “deter other women from accessing telemedical abortion service” or being “open and honest with medical professionals”.

Justice Pepperall dismissed their pleas on the grounds that it was the role of Parliament to change laws, not judges.

The judge sentenced Foster to a 28-months imprisonment with 14 months in custody and the remainder on licence after her release.

Appeals court judges Dame Victoria Sharp, sitting with Lord Justice Holroyde and Mrs Justice Lambert, said yesterday, however, Foster’s sentence would be reduced to 14 months and that it should be suspended.

She said: “This is a very sad case, not least because of the length of the gestation when the offence was committed. It is a case that calls for compassion, not punishment, and where no useful purpose is served by detaining Ms Foster in custody.”

Clare Murphy, the chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), said afterwards that Foster was jailed under a “cruel and antiquated” law.

“Now is the time to reform abortion law so that no more women are unjustly criminalised for taking desperate actions at a desperate time in their lives,” she added.

The pro-life campaign group Right To Life UK called for the reinstatement of in-person appointments before all abortions take place to ensure that the gestation of babies can accurately be assessed.

Spokeswoman Catherine Robinson, said: “We are also calling for a full inquiry into the abortion provider, BPAS, for sending out abortion pills to a woman whose baby, Lily, was 22 weeks beyond the legal limit for at-home abortions.

“The Government must firmly reject changing legislation to make abortion legal right up to birth, as is proposed by abortion campaigners, led by BPAS, who are using this tragic case to call for the removal of more abortion safeguards and to build momentum for their campaign to introduce abortion up to birth across the United Kingdom.”

“At at least 32 weeks or around 8 months gestation, Baby Lily was a fully formed human child. If her mother had been given an in-person appointment by BPAS, she would still be alive.”

“Rather than take responsibility for sending out abortion pills 22 weeks beyond the legal limit for at-home abortions and risking the health of the mother as well as her unborn child, this same abortion provider, BPAS, is now cynically exploiting this woman’s tragic experience of using its abortion service to lobby the Government to give in to demands from the campaign they are leading in order to introduce abortion up to birth.”