UK woman jailed for self-abortion

A woman in the UK who aborted her own baby within a week of his due date has been jailed for eight years.

Sarah Catt bought drugs on the internet which induced her labour when her pregnancy was nearly full-term.

She claimed the boy was stillborn and that she buried his body but no evidence of the child was ever found, Leeds Crown Court heard.

Catt, 35, already had two children with her husband when she became pregnant in 2009. She believed the baby's father was a man with whom she had been having an affair for seven years.

She tried to terminate the pregnancy in 2010 but discovered she had missed the legal limit of 24 weeks.

She made several searches on the internet relating to illegal abortions and abortion drugs, including "Where can I get an illegal abortion?" and "Inducing an abortion at 30 weeks".

Catt, from Sherburn-in-Elmet, North Yorkshire, bought a drug used to terminate pregnancy or induce labour over the internet from a company in Mumbai, India, in May 2010.

The drug was delivered to her home address when she was 38 weeks pregnant and she is believed to have taken it towards the end of May 2010 when she was nearly 40 weeks.

Catt was arrested in September 2010 and was interviewed several times over the next year.

She told police she had undergone a legal abortion at a Marie Stopes clinic in March of that year - despite being nearly 30 weeks pregnant at that stage.

She pleaded guilty earlier this year to administering a poison with intent to procure a miscarriage.

Mr Justice Cooke said she had robbed the baby of the life it was about to have and said the seriousness of the crime lay between manslaughter and murder.

Sentencing Catt, who showed no emotion during the hour-long hearing, the judge said: "The critical element of your offending is the deliberate choice made by you, in full knowledge of the due date of your child, to terminate the pregnancy at somewhere close to term, if not actually at term, with the full knowledge that termination after week 24 was unlawful and in full knowledge your child's birth was imminent."

Catt made a search on the internet on May 21, 2010 asking what would happen if she took the drug at term, and on May 26 she asked how soon the drug would work.

Mr Justice Cooke said: "It's a fair inference you must have taken the drug somewhere around that time."

On May 27 she went on holiday to France.

The judge said Catt could have been charged with destruction of a child.

"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."

The judge said Catt would have been charged with murder if the baby had been born a few days later and she had then killed him.

"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 said.

Catt told her lover about the pregnancy in 2009 and ended the affair a short time later. She restarted the "casual" affair in June the following year.

She had an appointment for a consultation at a Marie Stopes clinic on March 16 2010 but a scan the day before showed that she was 29 weeks five days pregnant and too late for a termination.

The judge said she did not tell her "highly supportive" husband about the pregnancy.

Frances Oldham QC, in mitigation, described the case as "highly unusual" and said Catt was a "supportive and loving mother" to her two children.

Mrs Oldham said Catt had asked her to tell her husband and children that she was sorry and said she would "never forgive herself" for the effect her actions had had on her family.

"It's a burden she will bear for the rest of her life," she said.

Speaking after the sentencing, North Yorkshire Police described Catt as "cold and calculating".

Chief Inspector Kerrin Smith said: "This was an unusual, disturbing and very complicated case to investigate.

"One of the difficulties faced by the investigation team was convincing other parties in the criminal justice system that a woman could conceal a full-term pregnancy from all around her, even her husband, and that she could give birth and then carry on everyday activities.

"Catt's previous history with regard to her pregnancies, and in her admissions to the police, show that she is more than capable of being extremely deceitful in her actions. She also had her own reasons for not sharing the news of her pregnancy with her husband.

"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."

The detective added: "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."

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