Carla Foster, a 45-year-old mother of three, who was incarcerated for acquiring medication to terminate her late-stage pregnancy, will now be released after successfully appealing to have her sentence reduced. Originally facing a 28-month term, the Court of Appeal in Britain has revised it to 14 months and suspended her sentence. UK Woman Jailed for Obtaining Abortion Tablets.
Foster obtained the abortion medication under the “pills by post” scheme, introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic for unwanted pregnancies up to 10 weeks, after a remote consultation. She was accused of misleading the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) by declaring she was under the 10-week cutoff point, when she believed she was around 28 weeks pregnant. After the abortion, doctors discovered that the fetus was between 32 and 34 weeks gestation. Abortion is generally legal in England, Scotland, and Wales up to 24 weeks but is carried out in a hospital or clinic after 10 weeks.
This case has sparked significant debate, particularly given Foster’s situation. Foster’s lawyer revealed that during her 35-day prison stay, she was denied communication with her children, one of whom is autistic. Consequently, the initial sentencing of Foster sparked a wave of protest from advocates of abortion rights as well as professional associations comprising obstetricians, gynecologists, and midwives, who contended that the punishment was disproportionately harsh.
Mr Justice Pepperall had previously ruled that Foster would serve half her term in custody and the rest on license after her release. However, the appeal judges, including Judge Victoria Sharp, stated that the case calls for “compassion, not punishment,” and concluded that “no useful purpose is served by detaining Ms. Foster in custody”.
Clare Murphy, the chief executive of BPAS, expressed delight at the decision to release Foster. She stated, “The court of appeal has today recognized that this cruel, antiquated law does not reflect the values of society today.” She urged parliament to decriminalize abortion as a matter of urgency, so that no more women are unjustly criminalized for taking desperate actions during desperate times in their lives.
Echoing similar sentiments, Jemima Olchawski, the CEO of the Fawcett Society, highlighted the trauma endured by Foster and her family due to the trial and original sentence. She voiced that prison was never an appropriate place for this woman nor an appropriate response to what transpired.
The news of Foster’s release has shed light on the broader issue of the legalities and complexities surrounding abortion rights, highlighting the urgent need for a compassionate review and potential reform of the law.