Prosecutors dropped the case against a woman accused of trying to procure her own miscarriage – five months after a judge said he was ‘flabbergasted’ the prosecution was being brought.

The woman, 25, who we are not naming, was charged more than a year after her baby was delivered by C-section in January 2021.

During an examination by a doctor at the John Radcliffe Hospital, two hexagonal tablets were found in the mother’s body.

The doctor believed them to be misoprostol. That view was backed-up by the mother herself, who said she had been prescribed them previously in Portugal and taken them by accident – intending, instead, to take anti-thrush tablets.

The mum was 31 weeks pregnant at the time and her waters had broken. Her placenta had also broken and, with the unborn baby in significant distress, the woman was rushed into surgery and the child delivered by emergency C-section.

The baby – who survived and continues to live with the mother – weighed just 4lbs 4oz.

READ MORE: Mum denies trying to 'procure miscarriage' in 2021

On Friday morning (December 9), prosecutor Ryan Evans told Judge Ian Pringle KC that the case had been reviewed again following receipt of the woman’s medical records from Portugal and a decision taken to offer no evidence.

“The decision was not taken on evidential grounds but the Crown considers it is not in the public interest for this case to proceed,” he said.

In July, when the woman’s lawyers asked Recorder John Hardy KC to vary her bail so she could retrieve her passport and travel home to Portugal to see her parents, the judge said he was ‘flabbergasted’ she was being prosecuted.

He questioned the public interest in the case being prosecuted and suggested that rather than a bail variation he should hear legal argument over whether the charge should be dismissed.

“This case in my judgement beggars belief. There can be no conceivable public interest in pursuing it,” he said.

Describing the case a ‘sad and tragic’ one, he labelled the prosecution ‘misconceived’ and a proposed five-day trial a ‘waste of court time [that] exacerbates the absence of any public interest I can detect in pursuing this prosecution’.

Recorder Hardy questioned if the CPS's public interest test was met in the case. The public interest was in the baby remaining with the mother, he said, which might be at risk if she was convicted and sent to prison.

READ MORE: Magistrates' court appearance of woman accused of 'procuring miscarriage'

He said it was right that society ‘endeavours to protect the unborn by imposing sanctions on those who try to terminate it in an unlicensed way’. But added there was little deterrent effect in carrying-on with the prosecution, as there were not large numbers of women attempting to procure their own abortions.

The law under which the woman was charged dates back to 1861 and was originally enacted to tackle backstreet ‘clinics’ in the Victorian era.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.  

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