An English Catholic bishop has praised a court for releasing a woman jailed for aborting her baby eight months into pregnancy.
Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster, who leads the pro-life efforts of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales, said he welcomed the decision of the Court of Appeal in London to free Carla Foster because it was showing "mercy and compassion."
On July 18, three judges reduced Foster’s prison sentence to a 14-month suspended sentence so the mother of three could be released immediately. They concluded that "it is a case that calls for compassion, not punishment," and that "no useful purpose is served by detaining Ms. Foster in custody."
Foster was sentenced June 12 at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court to 28 months -- half of which was to be spent in prison and the rest under license -- because she took abortion pills to end the life of her baby girl, Lily, when she was between 32 and 34 weeks pregnant.
The upper time limit for legal abortions in the UK is 24 weeks, with additional exceptions made for cases such as disability.
Bishop Sherrington said: "I reiterate the consistent teaching of the Church that both the mother and the unborn child should be afforded the protection of the law and that abortion is always a tragedy for all concerned."
"It is important that the law which protects the life of the unborn child is upheld," he said in a July 18 statement posted on the website of the bishops' conference.
"In this case I welcome the court’s decision to show mercy and compassion so that Carla Foster is reunited with her children and her family life can continue," he said.
Foster, 44, lied about how advanced her pregnancy was to obtain the mifepristone and misoprostol remotely from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the largest abortion provider in the UK, at the start of the 2020 lockdown.
Mifepristone works by blocking the hormone progesterone, which the preborn child needs to live. Misoprostol induces contractions to expel the aborted baby.
She was prosecuted under section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which prohibits the administration of drugs or using instruments to procure abortion.
Judge Victoria Sharp said on July 18 that "this is a very sad case, not least because of the length of the gestation when the offense was committed."
Clare Murphy, chief executive of BPAS, said in a July 18 statement that Foster was jailed under a "cruel, antiquated law."
"Now is the time to reform abortion law so that no more women are unjustly criminalized for taking desperate actions at a desperate time in their lives," she said.
The pro-life campaign group Right To Life UK accused BPAS of "using this tragic case to call for the removal of more abortion safeguards and to build momentum for their campaign to introduce abortion up to birth across the United Kingdom."
Catherine Robinson, the spokeswoman for the group, said in a July 18 statement: "Rather than take responsibility for sending out abortion pills 22 weeks beyond the legal limit for at-home abortions and risking the health of the mother as well as her unborn child, this same abortion provider, BPAS, is now cynically exploiting this woman’s tragic experience of using its abortion service to lobby the Government to give in to demands from the campaign they are leading in order to introduce abortion up to birth."
The case comes just weeks after UK government figures indicated that a record number of abortions took place in England and Wales last year.
Statistics released June 22 by the Department of Health and Social Care show that 123,219 abortions for residents of England and Wales took place in the six months between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2022.
The figure is 17,731 higher than the total recorded for the first six months of 2021, which was 105,488 for residents of England and Wales.
That year saw the highest number of abortions ever recorded in England and Wales over a full year: 214,256.
The data for the first six months of 2022 indicates that a new record will be set for annual numbers of abortions, if replicated in the second half of the year.
The figures revealed that 1,428 abortions were carried out on grounds of disability and pro-life activists say such abortions are evidence of blatant and illegal discrimination against disabled people. In England and Wales, around 90% of babies found to have Down’s syndrome are aborted.
Michael Robinson, executive director at the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said, quoted by the Financial Times, that the "abortion industry" was Foster's case "to push for abortion up to birth."
Activists within Parliament earlier this year succeeded in amending the Public Order Bill to prohibit prayer, even made silently, and pavement counseling outside every abortion facility in the country.
In late June, politicians also voted through regulations by 373 to 28 to force schools in Northern Ireland to teach children about abortion, without granting a parental right of opt-out.
The Northern Ireland Office said the regulations "will result in educating adolescents on issues such as how to prevent a pregnancy, the legal right to an abortion in Northern Ireland, and how relevant services may be accessed."
In the House of Lords, Lord William McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown had called the imposition of the regulations "a disgrace to any Government," as quoted by UK charity -- The Christian Institute.
He said: "Forcing all primary schools in Northern Ireland, including faith schools, to teach girls that they have a right to an abortion and telling them how to get one without their parents finding out, even if they are under age, is unbelievable in what is supposed to be a democratic society."
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in the European Union issued a statement on July 18 urging the bloc to oppose attempts to "implement in the future a new fundamental right to abortion into the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights."
It reminded member states that "there is no recognized right to abortion in European or international law."