The sentencing of a woman for two years imprisonment for performing a home abortion with pills obtained via a phone consultation raises lots of questions. However, the main question asked in an almost universal chorus of headlines was why are our ‘archaic’ and ‘unfair’ abortion laws still in place? ‘A woman has been jailed for 2 years for having an illegal abortion – how on earth is that fair?’, ‘The tragic case shining a light on the UK’s archaic abortion laws’ and ‘MPs told to overhaul Victorian abortion law used to jail mother-of-three’, and many others all illustrate the complete capture of Western society by the worldview that a woman has a right to end her pregnancy at any time she wants and in any way she chooses without facing any legal penalty. There was only one dissenting headline which appeared callous and cold amidst the surrounding chorus of disapproval – ‘If you choose to abort your baby at 32 weeks, jail is exactly where you belong’.
For me, however, it was not a headline but a picture on Twitter of a baby born at 32 weeks that made me realise that the life of the unborn child in this case – which was totally disregarded in almost all media discussion – would have been at the story’s very heart had the mother ended the same child’s life by removing their life support on a premature baby unit. Children’s lives rightly matter, and they deserve the full protection of the law. This is the essence of Alison Pearson’s argument under the one dissenting headline. ‘A woman’s “reproductive rights” do not include stopping the heart of a baby that can live outside its mother’s body’. During the crisis of the pandemic, the law was changed under pressure from abortion providers and their allies, making it all too easy for women to obtain abortion pills without having any independent confirmation of gestational age. A policy that Lord Alton predicted at the time would inevitably lead to cases such as this.
Surely those who provide abortion pills without adequate safeguards also have responsibility in this tragic outcome? Furthermore, if legal proceedings did not ensue against the mother in this case, on what rational basis can one possibly hold legally to account a mother who removes her infant from the special care unit, thereby causing death? Does the value of a viable infant’s life depend only on whether it is born? This important question is not a new one but is arguably even more important in an age of online abortion pills on request. It should not be drowned out by calls for total decriminalisation of all abortions and cries of outrage against the case being brought at all.
Pearson unwaveringly continues, ‘...as it happens I too am outraged. Outraged on behalf of the baby in this case whose mother did a Google search for “I need to have an abortion and I’m past 24 weeks” and “Could I go to jail for aborting my baby at 30 weeks?” Thankfully the answer to the latter question is still yes.’
One might be forgiven, on reading most other accounts, for not realising that the mother, in this case, almost certainly knew what she was doing at the time she took the pills, which is why the judge felt he could not give a suspended sentence. Reading his sentencing remarks certainly puts the case in a very different light from most of the selective accounts in a media that never dares question any aspect of an industry that ends almost a quarter of a million unborn lives in the UK every year.
Jennie Pollock and Trevor Stammers
Readers may wish to use this tool, created by Right to Life, to write to their MP requesting that rather than decriminalising abortion, personal appointments are reinstated for all initial abortion consultations.