The companies that campaigned for pills-by-post are using the Carla Foster case to try to decriminalise abortion. But it won’t help women, says Alithea Williams, it only puts them in more danger


The case of Carla Foster, a 44-year-old mother of three who was sentenced to jail this week for causing the death of her almost full term baby, Lily, by illegally ordering and taking abortion drugs, has divided the nation.

On one hand, many people are shocked that a woman, especially one with other children, has been jailed for having an abortion. On the other, there is widespread horror about the death of a fully viable, innocent baby girl. Many Christians will be wondering how to respond.

The case in full

It is important to first lay out the facts of the case. On 6 May, Carla Foster called abortion provider BPAS, using the telemedicine system brought in during the Coved-19 pandemic. According to the sentencing judge, she gave false answers indicating that she was seven weeks pregnant. Abortifacient drugs were then sent to her in the post.

Here’s the account of the day in full, from the court documents: “On 9 May, you took mifepristone. That same day you conducted internet searches suggesting that you were 28 weeks pregnant. You then took the misoprostol at around 1pm on 11 May. Two emergency calls were made for medical attention that afternoon and evening.

“Paramedics attended at 4.25pm in response to a report that you might be having a miscarriage. You gave the paramedics false information and, not realising that you were pregnant, they left. The second call was made at 6.39pm, shortly before your daughter, Lily, was stillborn. Paramedics attended at 7pm but all attempts at resuscitation failed and Lily was pronounced dead at 7.45pm.”

Did Lily’s life have no value, and should there be no penalty for her death?

Contrary to some media reports, the judge found that Ms Foster was fully aware of how advanced her pregnancy was. In his sentencing remarks, Hon Mr Justice Pepperall said: “You were in fact 32-34 weeks pregnant and well beyond the point at which you could lawfully obtain an abortion. Messages found on your phone indicate that you had known of your pregnancy for about three months on 1 February 2020.

“By mid-February, you were conducting internet searches on ways to induce a miscarriage. By the end of February, you were searching for abortion services. Your search on 25 February indicated that you then believed that you were 23 weeks pregnant…On 24 April, you searched ‘I need to have an abortion but I’m past 24 weeks’.”

Mr Pepperall also concluded that Ms Foster “deliberately lied in order to bring [herself] within the telemedical service for early medical abortions”.

It is clear that Ms Foster is filled with remorse and is now relying on mental health services. The judge accepted that she “had a very deep emotional attachment” to her unborn child, and is now “plagued by nightmares and flashbacks to seeing your dead child’s face”.

This is a tragic case in every sense. Baby Lily had her life violently ended, and her mother must now live with what she did.

A dangerous agenda

How does a Christian respond compassionately to this sad situation? It is natural to wonder if imprisonment is really the best answer here. But it is important to note that many of those protesting the sentence have their own agenda.

Within minutes of the judgement being handed down, abortion provider BPAS launched a campaign website, with a mechanism to contact MPs and call for the decriminalisation of abortion.

This is the same organisation who enthusiastically campaigned for the pills by post policy, which allows abortion drugs to be sent to women in the post to self-administer, with no medical supervision or support.

BPAS sent the pills to Carla Foster with no ultrasound, medical verification of her pregnancy, physical examination or in person appointment to check on her wellbeing. Now they are using this awful case to campaign to remove abortion from the law entirely.

Our natural compassion for a deeply remorseful woman should not play into the hands of the extreme abortion lobby. As Christians, we are called to protect the most vulnerable. Are we really saying that aborting a fully viable baby should be permitted? Should unborn babies have no rights at all? Did Lily’s life have no value, and should there be no penalty for her death?

That is what decriminalisation would mean. That BPAS are campaigning on the back of this case shows that they support killing healthy babies who are only a few weeks short of natural birth. They seemingly have no problem with a woman going through a dangerous, late term abortion at home by herself.

This is not compassion.

Protecting women

There are over 200,000 legal abortions every single year but despite this, in 55 years, only a handful of women have ever been imprisoned for an illegal abortion. Indeed, most convictions under this “Victorian law” are of men who have caused an abortion either by brute force or secretly administering abortion drugs.

Decriminalisation will not help women. Vulnerable and coerced women are more likely to have late abortions. Research shows that many women have abortions they do not want, under pressure from family members or partners, or due to their financial or life circumstances. The ‘pills by post’ policy only makes these women more vulnerable and unable to access the help and support they may need.

Our natural compassion for a deeply remorseful woman should not play into the hands of the extreme abortion lobby

Laws against aborting a baby that is old enough to survive a normal hospital delivery help to prevent dangerous, traumatic late-term abortions.

The law can be a blunt instrument, and it is the responsibility of the judiciary to decide how it should be applied, including the consideration of mitigating circumstances and sentencing. More responsibility should be laid at the hands of abortion providers, who knowingly campaigned for a dangerous policy, and now are using the predictably horrific consequences to push their own agenda.

We should pray for Carla Foster, that she finds hope and healing, and for her family. But we must also honour the memory of baby Lily, and not allow a cruel abortion lobby to remove legal protection for other babies like her.