Woman who took poison to terminate pregnancy jailed
Published 18/12/2015 | 08:13
A woman who took poison she bought on the internet to terminate her unborn son has been jailed.
Natalie Towers, 24, of Adams Street, Shildon, County Durham, collapsed wailing in the dock at Newcastle Crown Court when she was sentenced to serve two years and six months behind bars.
Mr Justice Jay said: "This offence does involve extinguishing life about to begin."
He gave her credit for admitting the charge of administering poison with intent to procure a miscarriage while 32-34 weeks' pregnant at a previous hearing, but said an immediate custodial sentence had to be passed and it could not be suspended.
Towers, who has a child from a previous pregnancy which she concealed, wept throughout the sentencing hearing.
A reporting restriction preventing the unborn child from being identified by the media, which was previously in place, had been made in error, the court heard.
Towers was living with her boyfriend in November last year when she bought and took a drug which caused strong contractions, the court heard.
After she felt unwell she went to the bathroom and rang 999 to say she was having a miscarriage and told the call handler she was bleeding.
A first paramedic arrived to find Towers complaining of stomach pain but not appearing to be distressed or concerned, Sarah Mallett, prosecuting, said.
Another paramedic arrived and when she went to look in the toilet, Towers said "It's dead, I know it's dead", the court heard.
The female paramedic found "there was a baby, head first in the toilet", Miss Mallett said.
She added: "She took such steps as she could do to help the baby."
He was warm, pale but not blue, "small but fully-formed", the court heard. There was no sign of life.
Strenuous efforts were made to resuscitate the baby, who has been named Luke, the judge was told.
Tests later showed he was between 32 and 34 weeks gestation and his development was commensurate with that age.
The cause of death was oxygen starvation, the court was told.
Towers spoke to a police officer at hospital and appeared calm and unemotional but was worried she might be jailed, Miss Mallett said.
A few hours later she spoke to another officer and was emotional when speaking about her health problems.
She initially claimed she was unaware of her pregnancy and had not felt any movements, then confessed she took tablets although "she didn't think she was that far along", Miss Mallett said.
After she was arrested, she told police she had Googled the drug and ordered it without reading up about it. In a later interview she said she thought she was a couple of months pregnant and had "no idea" how old the baby was, Miss Mallett said.
Towers used the internet to buy the pills and researched how to delete her search history and babies born at 24 weeks.
The prosecuting barrister said it was a "very unusual case".
Dan Cordey, defending, said: "She is remorseful, she greatly regrets her actions, she is a young lady, she was 23 at the time, now only 24, and that remorse and regret is something that will live with her for the rest of her life.
"In her own words, she said 'When I look back I think it's awful, I hate myself, I hate it and I know it's my fault'."
Mr Cordey said at the time she was suffering from "depressive episodes".
He said she was emotionally unstable and had "a tendency to act without thinking".
Mr Justice Jay said: "The case has nothing to do with the general immorality or otherwise of the termination of unborn foetuses.
"The law in this country is quite clear, you must have been fully aware no doubt in line with your internet searches, it was open to you to seek termination at any stage before 24 weeks gestation."
The judge said her baby at 32-34 weeks would have had a "very good chance of survival, but had no chance once you administered this drug".
He said the offence was so serious that immediate custody was required.