IT is a “dark day for reproductive rights”, pro-choice campaigners have said, after a woman was jailed after illegally having an abortion during the pandemic.

The woman, who has not been named, was sent abortion-causing drugs by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) after she called them in 2020 and lied about how far along her pregnancy was.

It is illegal to intentionally use the abortion medication, mifepristone, at home past 10 weeks gestation. The woman was between 32 and 34 weeks pregnant when she took the abortion medication.

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The case was heard at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court on Monday, with the woman, a mother of three, sentenced to 28 months in prison.

The woman, who had three sons before becoming pregnant again in 2019, did not see a doctor about her pregnancy because she was “embarrassed” and did not know how far along she was, the court was told.

Pro-choice campaigners and other activists reacted with outrage at the sentence and called for reform to existing abortion law.

Back Off Scotland, a pressure group campaigning for buffer zones outside of abortion clinics targeted by evangelical protesters, said that the case showed how abortion rights must be protected.

“A woman has today been sentenced to 28 months in prison for ending her own pregnancy in England under a law passed before women even had the vote,” they said on social media.

“It’s a very dark day for women’s reproductive rights in the U.K.”

Back Off Scotland added: “This underlines how seriously we have to protect and advance abortion rights here in Scotland.

“Unfortunately despite making a promise during his leadership campaign to meet with us back in February and emailing his office [three times] since, we haven’t heard a thing from Humza Yousaf.”

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BPAS, who were named in proceedings, joined criticism of the sentence, writing on social media: “Today, a mother-of-three has been jailed for 28 months after using abortion pills to end her own pregnancy.

“No woman can ever go through this again.

“We need abortion law reform in Great Britain NOW. #TimeToAct.”

“Vulnerable women and girls should not be imprisoned for ending their own pregnancies,” they added.

“Unless parliament acts, more women and girls will be threatened with up to life imprisonment under our cruel and archaic abortion law.”

Dr Ann Olivarius, an international feminist lawyer, joined criticism online, writing: “So, between them, police forces and [the Crown Prosecution Service] manage a prosecution rate of rapes of ... 2%.

“But they, somehow, find the time for this mother of four.

“And, she'll be serving roughly as much time as a rapist [who has] used a weapon. #decriminaliseabortion.”

Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party (WEP), said: “This crushing sentence is exactly why it's so important that abortion is decriminalised in the UK.

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“It's a national scandal that women are being criminalised for seeking healthcare. I send my solidarity to the woman who has been sentenced and her family.”

“This sentence is cruel and utterly heartbreaking,” WEP said on social media.

“No woman should go to prison for seeking healthcare. It is not in the public interest to rip her away from her children and imprison her.

“We must decriminalise abortion. Until then, women are at risk.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman, asked if Rishi Sunak is confident that criminalising abortion in some circumstances remains the right approach, told reporters: “Our laws as they stand, balance a woman’s right to access safe and legal abortions with the rights of an unborn child, I’m not aware of any plans to address that approach.”

We told how the woman spoke to a nurse at BPAS on May 6 2020, and based on her answers to questions about her pregnancy, was thought to be around only seven weeks pregnant and was sent abortion pills in the post.

Days later, on May 11 2020, having taken the pills, a 999 call was made at 6.39pm saying the woman was in labour.

Her child was born during the course of the phone call, prosecutors told the court.

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The baby was not breathing and despite resuscitation attempts by paramedics, who arrived at the scene at about 7pm, she was pronounced dead at hospital around 45 minutes later.

A post-mortem examination determined the child was between 32 and 34 weeks when born.

Her cause of death was recorded as stillbirth and maternal use of abortion drugs.

The woman was initially charged with child destruction and pleaded not guilty.

She later pleaded guilty to an alternative charge of section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, administering drugs or using instruments to procure abortion, which was accepted by the prosecution.

The maximum sentence is life imprisonment.