Teenager accused of illegal abortion tells trial it was ‘stupid’ to buy pills

Elliot Benham, 23, (second left under umbrella) and Sophie Harvey, 23, (second right under umbrella) leave Cheltenham Magistrates' Court at an earlier hearing  (PA)
Elliot Benham, 23, (second left under umbrella) and Sophie Harvey, 23, (second right under umbrella) leave Cheltenham Magistrates' Court at an earlier hearing (PA)

A tearful dancer accused of illegally aborting her baby told a jury she regretted a “stupid” decision to purchase pills - but denied taking them to end her pregnancy.

Sophie Harvey appeared emotional and gripping a hot water bottle as she took to the witness stand on the third day of her trial at Gloucester Crown Court on Thursday.

The 25-year-old is accused of procuring pills to cause an abortion after learning she was at 28 weeks and five days gestation – meaning she could not get a legal abortion in England.

Abortions in England are legal up to 24 weeks gestation if carried out by a registered medical practitioner.

Harvey, then aged 19, said she and boyfriend Elliot Benham agreed to buy abortion drugs, but that the pack arrived after she suffered a stillbirth at her family home, she said was on 9 September in 2018.

During cross-examination by prosecutor KC Mrs Anna Vigars, Harvey said she had wanted to keep the baby after being informed the pregnancy had gone too far on 30 August.

Questioned why she had agreed to order the pills, she said: “It was 50 50, I was confused, I was still trying to get my thoughts together.” She added: “It was stupid, and we shouldn’t have done it.”

Asked by Mrs Vigars if there was any other reason to buy the pills than to abort the baby, Harvey said: “Just so that I had an option.” Mrs Vigars pushed: “The option was illegal abortion, wasn’t it?” Harvey replied: “I don’t know.”

Earlier, when asked by her defence lawyer, Mr Thomas Godfrey, if she had handled the drugs, which were picked up by Benham from a Royal Mail collection office on 22 September, Harvey said she took one pill out of a packet.

“I was thinking about taking one in case it was incomplete [the stillbirth],” she said. “I threw it in the bin.”

The jury heard how Harvey, who studied dance BTEC at New College in Swindon, had contacted her GP for a referral for an abortion after receiving a positive pregnancy test.

Believing she was four months pregnant, she went for the appointment at British Pregnancy Advisory Service where an ultrasound scan found she was past the legal 24-week limit for an abortion.

When asked by Mr Godfrey how she felt, Harvey told the jury: “I was shocked.

“It just wasn’t what I thought was going to happen so I was surprised, I thought the appointment [to have a termination] would just go ahead.”

The jury heard how in the days that followed, Harvey visited abortion-related websites and emailed one enquiring about shipping and delivery options, Asked why, she said: “I am not sure, I was just confused.”

The couple then agreed to order the drugs on 7 September.

Mr Godfrey asked if she knew taking pills to induce an abortion would be illegal, she replied: “Yes.”

Harvey, of St Mary’s Road in Cirencester, denies procuring poison with intent to procure a miscarriage and denies administering poison with intent to procure a miscarriage.

Harvey and Benham, of Wingfield in Swindon, Wiltshire, both deny undertaking an act intending to pervert the course of justice by disposing of a child.

Both defendants have admitted a charge of concealing the birth of a baby.

The trial continues.