A 44 year old mother of three was sentenced to 24 months in jail on Monday for using abortion pills to abort a foetus at just over 30 weeks, whereas the legal limit for abortions is currently 24 weeks.
She obtained the pills in March 2020 during Lockdown through the ‘pills by post scheme’ and lied to the authorities, saying she was under the 24 week limit. She got found out because she had to call emergency services having taken the pills, and the police were called by medical staff after she arrived in hospital.
She was prosecuted under the 1861 ‘Offences against the person act‘ which outlines a maximum possible life-sentence, but the judge residing stated she’d received the sentence for lying rather than the actual abortion, had she not lied he probably would have given her a non-custodial sentence.
Relevance to A-level sociology
You can apply victimology here. It seems to me that this woman is a victim of unfortunate circumstances and an outdated criminal justice system.
She got pregnant during lockdown, when access to abortion services would have been restricted, and came to a late decision to abort, by which time the only way she could do what she thought was right was to lie to the authorities.
She basically did this under extreme stress in the middle of lockdown with a lack of support, and apparently has suffered huge emotional trauma as a result.
There seems to be consensus over the fact that she should have reproductive rights over her own body. Even the judge who sentenced her suggested the law needs to be changed.
I mean let’s face it: there are no legitimate arguments against this so this isn’t surprising. (Religious arguments aren’t rational thus not legitimate, because if they’re not rational they aren’t arguments, just faith-based opinions.)
There will obviously be a strong Feminist argument for changing the law here so such women can’t be prosecuted, I mean theoretically women can still go to jail for a life sentence for aborting a foetus at 25 weeks, and this is just overt state control over pregnant women’s bodies in modern Britain.
The fact that this law hasn’t been changed is a criticism of Liberal Feminism: clearly here social policy hasn’t been updated in so long that it’s not sufficient to protect such women when they need it!
Hopefully there will be an appeal very soon and this woman will get out of jail much earlier than 12 months (she’s serving half in jail), because her being in jail doesn’t serve any positive functions: not for society, not for her children and not for her.
Possibly the fact that this law hasn’t been updated for so long is because Parliament is still largely a patriarchal institution which is failing to adequately keep up to date with issues of gender justice.
I guess this also a test case for the Functionalist view that media reactions to laws will result in them changing, hopefully this will be the case here sooner rather than later!