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Artillery Row

The true tragedy of the Foster Case

​​The abortion industry, not our criminal justice system, is to blame

“Everything about this case is tragic,” wrote Rachel Cunliffe of the New Statesman. I couldn’t agree more. The intentional killing of Lily Foster, the unborn child of mother Carla Foster, at 32 weeks gestation was tragic. As were the circumstances that led to it and resulted from it.

Yet in the midst of this tragedy — culminating in a dead daughter and a mother of three remaining children going to jail for 14 months — many have been able to find a silver lining. “One consolation”, wrote Cunliffe, is that “maybe, just maybe, it could spur a much-needed change in the law”.

She is by no means alone in making this case. So many politicians, journalists and activists have been pushing this argument this week, one could be forgiven for thinking a coordinated campaign is under foot.

Diana Johnson and Stella Creasy have weighed in on the case. The Royal College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians has also joined the fray, along with Mandu Reid, the Head of the Women’s Equality Party. A BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour host, she used her interview to ask, “what would a deregulated abortion law look like?”

The claim and the aim is clear, and it has been since the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) first launched its We Trust Women Campaign in 2016. Its mission: to abolish the “archaic” Victorian law that makes abortion illegal and to remove all criminal sanctions for abortion. All this, they claim, is in the best interests of women. However, a closer examination of the evidence suggests that this campaign serves one group and one group only … the abortion industry. 

When a car manufacturer realises there is a fault with one of its cars (which may lead to an accident and hence injury or death), it recalls them. It knows that however unlikely an accident may be, it cannot take the risk that this fault may result in the loss of human life. 

What they don’t do is lobby next to the crash site for more lenient car regulations. Yet this appears to be exactly what the abortion industry is doing. 

The fault they insist is with an old law — which interestingly is still used to prosecute over 26,000 offences a year, including acid attacks and grievous bodily harm without serious complaint. They see no problem with the fact that since 30 March 2020, the abortion industry (in another crisis exploiting moment) secured permission to send abortion pills out to women in the post without any face to face appointment, robust data checks or — most critical to this case — ultrasound scans. However well meaning these measures were, a Mystery Client investigation quickly revealed them to be wide open to abuse, with fake aliases able to order pills under false pretences, for questionable reasons. 

The potential for harm was present from the start — as were reports of actual harm.

Around 250 women per month required a further surgical procedure

Firstly in May 2020, two months into the new arrangement, an NHS email was leaked detailing serious complications and a maternal death being investigated by the police, most likely to be that of Sarah Dunn. By the end of the year the Department of Health and Social Care published data showing it knew of 52 illegal cases with serious complications being investigated by the CQC (cf FOI 1250644 in supplementary analysis here). One of these stories was Natalia from the Midlands, who spent three days bleeding into her mattress at home as she processed the trauma of passing a 10+ week old baby. The CQC also revealed they knew of four serious cases where women took these pills beyond 24 weeks in 2020 alone. This means Ms Foster is actually one of at least four cases from year one. 

Compared to the 300,000 women who have undergone DIY home abortion since it was approved, these occurrences are rare — yet this assumes that the “legal” medical abortions that have taken place were all without issue. 

The fact remains that medical abortion (when conducted by clinicians) has a four fold higher complication rate than surgical abortion. This reality was vividly displayed in a 2021 FOI survey of NHS hospitals, which found 1 in 17 women required hospital treatment as a result of these pills. Of these, around 250 women per month required a further surgical procedure — euphemistically named “Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception” — to remove what is left of the baby and or placenta. 

This isn’t surprising when you read what the manufacturers of these drugs say themselves. Ranbaxy (UK) Limited provides BPAS with the drugs used for its pills-by-post clients. It states that:

The non-negligible risk of failure, which occurs in 4.5 to 7.8 per cent of the cases, makes the follow-up visit mandatory in order to check that abortion is complete. The patient should be informed that surgical treatment may be required to achieve complete abortion.

Linepharma, another manufacturer of these drugs also warns:

The non-negligible risk of failure, which occurs in up to 7.6 per cent of the cases, makes the control visit mandatory in order to check that the expulsion is completed.

The abortion industry has entirely ignored these recommendations, abandoning women to bleed out at home and self-refer in the event of complications. In this respect, it is arguable as to whether any of this can be called “health care” at all. 

All this I highlighted over 18 months ago in this very publication, along with the fact that we don’t even collect NHS numbers on abortion procedures, yet nothing has changed. The abortion industry is still exploiting women but masquerading as their champion. If anyone deserves to be doing time for this whole sorry affair it’s BPAS, not the women they are systematically harming by their negligence. 

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