An Indiana court has thrown out the feticide (that is, murder of a fetus) conviction of Purvi Patel, a South Bend woman who was sentenced to twenty years after taking illegal abortion drugs that caused her to miscarry, the Associated Press is reporting.
The court overturned the two most serious of three felony convictions against Patel – namely, Class A child neglect and feticide — but let stand her conviction on a lesser charge, Class D neglect of a dependent. The lower charge carries a penalty of six months to up to three years in prison. She has already served two years in prison; she is scheduled to be re-sentenced at a later date, and may very well be set free at that time.
— PRI (@PRI) July 22, 2016
Back in 2013, Patel, 32 (at the time) and unmarried, got pregnant by a married co-worker. She declined to tell her conservative, religious family, and instead, tried to get an abortion. Indiana, however, had at the time (and still has) some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, and Patel illegally ordered abortion pills from an online pharmacy based in Hong Kong.
In July 2013, Patel showed up at an emergency room in Mishawaka, Indiana, bleeding profusely. She told the medical staff that she thought she was 10-12 weeks pregnant and that she had passed “clots.”
“I was feeling very disoriented, weak. Physically, I was in pain.”
However, her story didn’t check out, and eventually Patel revealed that he she had given birth to a 1.5 pound fetus in the bathroom at the restaurant her family owned, and then placed it in the trash behind the restaurant.
Whether or not Patel’s baby was born alive or stillborn remains a matter of dispute. Patel insists that she gave birth to a stillborn baby; prosecutors, however, alleged that the baby was born alive, and pinned a charge of felony child neglect onto the feticide charge for that reason.
The jury sided with the prosecution, and in February, 2015, Patel was sentenced to 20 years in prison. At the time, she was one of only two women to have been charged with feticide since Roe v. Wade, according to NBC News. The other woman, Bei Bei Shuai, a Chinese American-woman, attempted to commit suicide while pregnant; she survived, the fetus did not. She spent a year in an Indiana jail before the charges were dropped.
— Laura Nixon (@lauranixondc) August 2, 2013
Deepa Iyer, Activist-in-Residence at the University of Maryland’s Asian American Studies Program, noted that Patel’s conviction sets a bad precedent for women.
“Purvi Patel’s conviction amounts to punishment for having a miscarriage and then seeking medical care, something that no woman should worry would lead to jail time.”
Iyer also believes that there may have been a racial component to Patel’s case, nothing that women such as herself and Shuai, both Asian women from culturally conservative, traditional families, found themselves trapped between culturally conservative families and a state with strict abortion laws.
“Immigrant women of color, such as Bei Bei and Purvi, remain vulnerable to the exploitation of laws like these in a myriad of ways, as we have seen in how they have been treated by the state of Indiana. The cultural issues that the prosecution decided to drag into this case reflect stereotypes about Asian-American women and reproductive health which may not necessarily be true in this case.”
For now, Purvi Patel remains jailed as she awaits re-sentencing on her one remaining felony charge.
Do you believe that Purvi Patel was rightly charged with feticide?
[Image via St. Joseph County Police]