Skip to main content

Vulnerable Women, Crisis Pregnancies and the Criminal Justice System

We need to talk about a small but incredibly vulnerable group of women who are prosecuted and imprisoned under archaic criminal offences such as concealment of birth and procuring a miscarriage. Research by  Dr Emma Milne demonstrates these women experience "crisis pregnancies" and are living in cycles of violence and abuse with limited social support. Some experienced multiple pregnancies where they were unable to recognise and/or accept that they were pregnant and so seek medical care.

Join us

Sign up as a supporter and we will keep you up-to-date with our campaigns and let you know ways you can make your voice heard:

Click here to join our mailing list.


This is the image alt text

It’s hard for some of us to imagine how a woman, in a state of fear and profound crisis, denies to herself and the world that she is pregnant. Women in this situation may attempt to illegally end her pregnancy. In other tragic cases, a woman may find herself suddenly in labour, giving birth alone, and her baby dies of unknown causes, or unintentional neglect by the mother. In one case, a woman fell unconscious after giving birth alone and awoke to find her baby had died: she was then prosecuted.

Do they deserve long prison sentences? Or do they need sympathy, compassion, and support? Does criminalising vulnerable women really prevent harm to babies? Or does it just add to the harm that these women have already experienced?

Women in crisis shouldn’t be criminalised.

Let’s help. Not harm.

Find out more about the project

Read Dr Milne's research briefings:

Vulnerable Women, Crisis Pregnancies and the Criminal Justice System

Dr Milne, with the support of a number of women's charities, briefed MPs and Peers at a meeting in the House of Lords. This briefing outlines the key issues.

Briefing front cover: Vulnerable Women

Foetal Protection Laws: A Dangerous Future for British Women

In this briefing, Dr Milne explains the dangers of foetal protection laws, and why legislation must be repealed to protect foetuses and women.

Briefing Front cover: Foetal Protection Laws

Abortion and the Criminal Law: The Need for Decriminalisation

In this briefing, Dr Milne explains why abortion needs to be removed from the criminal law.

Briefing front cover: Abortion and the Criminal Law

Concealment of Birth: A Case for Repeal

In this briefing, Dr Milne outlines why the criminal offence of concealment of birth should be removed from the criminal law.

Briefing front cover: Concealment of Birth

About the Project

This project is based on research by Dr Emma Milne.

Working with:

BPAS logo

Funded by:

ESRC logo





Animation by Gough Bailey Wright.

Dr Emma Milne

Associate Professor in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice

Dr Emma Milne is a feminist socio-legal scholar. Her research is interdisciplinary, focusing on criminal law and criminal justice responses to the killing of infants and foetal harm by women. The wider context of Dr Milne’s work is social controls and regulations of all women, notably in relation to pregnancy, sex, and motherhood. Dr Milne is a member of the Gender and Law at Durham (GLAD) and Centre for Criminal Law and Criminal Justice (CCLCJ) research groups.

Contact Dr Milne


Follow Dr Milne on Twitter