LEEDS, September 21, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Abortion in Britain is still legally a part of the criminal code and can be prosecuted if it is conducted outside the limits set by the Abortion Act 1967. That this hardly ever happens in the current British legal climate was demonstrated this week by the apparent shock in the media at the conviction and sentencing of a woman who aborted her child at 39 weeks’ gestation.

Arrested in September 2010 on a charge of “administering a poison with intent to procure a miscarriage,” 35-year-old Sarah Louise Catt of Sherburn-in-Elmet, North Yorkshire, admitted in court to obtaining abortion drugs on the internet for a self-prescribed “medical” abortion. She said that she had tried to have a legal abortion but discovered that she was over the legal gestational age limit of 24 weeks.

Catt is believed to have taken the drugs obtained from an online company based in Mumbai, India, late in May 2010, when she was nearly 40 weeks pregnant. She pleaded guilty in July to administering a poison with intent to procure a miscarriage and was sentenced this week to eight years in prison.

Catt had concealed the pregnancy by a man with whom she was having an extramarital affair from her husband, Stephen Catt, and her two other children. She had already undergone an abortion earlier in her relationship with her husband, with his consent.

Catt has told police that she buried her child’s remains but has refused to disclose the location. Chief Inspector Kerrin Smith told the BBC, “I would like Sarah Catt to come forward and tell us exactly what she has done with the baby and where she has buried that baby so that we can recover his remains.”

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Smith said “It is very unusual,” adding that she had never had to investigate a case like this before.

“I think given the circumstances,” Smith continued, “that somebody who’s highly intelligent could have avoided where we are today by either using contraceptives or having a legal termination when she clearly knew she was pregnant. This need not have happened.”

In the sentencing hearing, Mr. Justice Cooke said Catt had robbed the baby of its life. “What you did was end the life of a child that was capable of being born alive by inducing birth or miscarriage,” he said. “What you have done is rob an apparently healthy child, vulnerable and defenceless, of the life which he was about to commence.”

“There is no mitigation available by reference to the Abortion Act, whatever view one takes of its provisions which are, wrongly, liberally construed in practice so as to make abortion available essentially on demand prior to 24 weeks with the approval of registered medical practitioners,” Cooke said.

He added, “The child in the womb was so near to birth, in my judgment all right-thinking people would think this offence more serious than unintentional manslaughter.” He noted that she could have been charged with murder if she had only waited a few more days until after the baby was born. 

Britain’s largely left-leaning secular media has reacted with outrage at the sentence, with some saying that the case is evidence that abortion should be totally decriminalised. The Guardian has been especially busy, following up with a story revealing that Justice Cooke has “links” to a “conservative Christian charity,” the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, and hinting darkly that his religious beliefs could have played a part in what is being called a harsh sentence.

Chief Inspector Smith described her as “cold and calculating,” saying she was “more than capable of being extremely deceitful in her actions”.

“Catt has proved to be cold and calculating and has shown no remorse or given an explanation for what she did, lying to the police, health professionals and her family throughout the investigation,” Smith continued.

“I only hope now that Catt has been sentenced and has the time to reflect on her actions, that she will reveal where the body of her baby is, so that we can ensure a compassionate conclusion to this very sad investigation.”

The UK’s leading pro-life organisation, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, responded to the case saying that the state of mental health of Mrs. Catt, after two abortions, is now a “cause for deep concern”.

Paul Tully, SPUC’s general secretary, said, “Abortion at any stage of pregnancy remains a serious crime, as the courts have recognised in this case”.

He said that the penalty should be a “salutary” reminder to the Department of Health, particularly the Sexual Health Team, that abortion remains a crime in Britain “unless the requirements of the Abortion Act 1967 are fulfilled”. Tully’s comments follow a spate of revelations by the press that these abortion regulations are routinely ignored and avoided by the abortion facilities under contract to the National Health Service.

“The grounds of the Act apply in few, if any, of the 500-600 abortions performed by doctors every day in Britain,” Tully said. “The department of health has worked incessantly since the 1967 Act was passed to maximise the provision of abortion”.