Calculating or a cry for help?

25th September 2012

Last week, the story of Sarah Louise Catt caught my eye.

The 35-year-old was sentenced to eight years in jail for aborting her pregnancy at 39 weeks. When passing the sentence, the presiding judge deemed Sarah ‘deceitful and calculating’ because she had shown no remorse for her actions.

The first time I read this story, I must admit I felt the same. And the evidence against her did nothing to evoke any sympathy for her. She’d been having an affair with a work colleague for seven years (she’s married), she’d concealed her pregnancy, and she’d already given up one child for adoption several years earlier.

But could she really have been as calculating as the judge suggests? The report reveals that Sarah had a scan at 30 weeks, so she had known about her pregnancy for a good couple of months before she took the decision to end it. Why did she wait until the 11th hour to take action? Surely she would have visited a clinic for a termination as soon as she realised she was expecting.

Even if she’d only discovered she was pregnant at that 30-week appointment, and missed the cut-off for a legal abortion, it doesn’t make sense that she would go through the pregnancy until she was almost full term. Perhaps she was waiting for the drugs to perform the procedure, which she ordered over the internet from a company in India, to arrive in the post, but I doubt that would account for the entire nine-week delay.

What strikes me as most odd about this case is the fact that Sarah has pleaded guilty to her crime, yet declined to reveal where she’d buried her baby’s remains. What would she gain from withholding that information?

The more I read the report, the more I find myself wondering if there is more to this case than meets the eye. However anxious this woman was to cover her tracks, surely she would have had options that didn’t result in her giving birth, alone, at home, so late on in her pregnancy.

Was this really an act of cold calculation, or merely one of tragic desperation?