United Kingdom resident Amie Upton, 34, was already a mother of two when she became pregnant with baby Florrie in 2020. Just 17 weeks into the pregnancy, an argument between Upton and her boyfriend Shaun Birchall, 28, turned violent when Birchall repeatedly rammed a baby stroller against her back until she fell against the corner of an open freezer door. The force of the impact caused Upton’s amniotic sac to break, and 12 weeks later she delivered her stillborn daughter.
Birchall was sentenced to just two years in prison for his actions, the result of a guilty plea to causing “grievous bodily harm” to Upton without reference to baby Florrie. Yet Upton believes the attack led to baby Florrie’s death, saying, “I’m sure the attack on me caused the death of Florrie too.”
It is true that preterm premature rupture of membranes or PPROM (when the bag of waters breaks before 28 weeks gestation) is correlated with “a very high neonatal mortality rate.”
The grieving mother is particularly devastated that Birchall was not sentenced in relation to the impact of his actions on Florrie, because “when the assault took place Florrie was not classed as a person in the eyes of the law.” Under British law, the legal personhood of the child is only conditionally recognized at the presumed point of viability, currently considered to be 24 weeks gestation, and the attack on Upton occurred at 12 weeks gestation.
Consequently, Upton has started a petition here to create Florrie’s Law, which she noted would be separate from existing abortion law, to “change the way a fetus beyond 24 weeks is perceived in a court of law after an unlawful killing of that fetus has taken place.”
According to a local news article, the judge who sentenced Birchall commented, “[Upton]was 17 weeks pregnant at the time (of the attack) and the impact caused the rupture of the amniotic sac. There is a considerable difficulty in determining exactly the consequences of that fact. It is beyond doubt that the rupture of the amniotic sac would on any view have caused serious consequences to the pregnancy. Whether it is in fact causative of death and, if so, to what degree are questions of very great complexity.”
He continued, “As I have indicated, it is undoubtedly the case that Miss Upton will believe to her dying day that it was a contributory factor and I accept that she may well be right about that but I can only sentence on evidence, not on feeling, and on evidence of which I have to be sure and the medical evidence is such that, although of course I see that it may well have been a factor, I simply cannot say that I can be certain to the required degree that it was.”
However, he insisted, “But I remind myself again that this is not a case of child destruction and it may well be that what Miss Upton has thought and no doubt thought carefully about, about whether there should be a change to the law in that regard, it may well be something that needs to be looked at or would be looked at.”
In issuing his ruling, the judge concluded, “I express no particular view about that other than to understand entirely why Miss Upton has undertaken the research and gained the support that she has to have the issue looked at. But on any view this was serious injury to Miss Upton herself and the consequences of it to Florrie, whether causative of death or not, were themselves of extreme seriousness.”
Baby Florrie’s tragic case is a sobering reminder of the vulnerability of every preborn person. She deserved the same chance at life as every other person. Currently, UK law fails to safeguard the safety of defenseless children like her, whether from abortion or acts of violence against a pregnant mother.
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