Purvi Patel, an Indiana woman who performed an illegal abortion on herself and was subsequently sentenced to 20 years in prison, has appealed her sentence, NBC News is reporting.
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 the truth: prior to showing up at the hospital, she had given birth following a botched home abortion. Whether or not the baby was born alive or stillborn or how far along Patel was in her pregnancy remains a matter of dispute.
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Patel lived with her deeply conservative, immigrant parents. Unbeknownst to her family, she had also been carrying on a relationship with a co-worker with whom she had gotten pregnant. Feeling she lacked other options, she decided to have an abortion, as she texted to a friend.
“My Fam would kill me n him. I’m just not ready for it.”
Instead of seeking help at an abortion clinic – a lengthy and arduous process in Indiana – Patel ordered abortion pills from an online pharmacy and took them.
Following her ordeal at the hospital, Patel was charged with feticide – that is, killing an unborn fetus, a crime for which she was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. According to National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Patel is the first woman in the U.S. to be charged, convicted, and sentenced for feticide for having performed an abortion on herself.
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To be fair, the Indiana law under which Patel was charged has nothing to do with abortion – at least not directly. In 2009, following the shooting of a pregnant bank teller, Indiana stiffened penalties for feticide. Specifically, it was the law against feticide under which Patel was sentenced to prison.
Still, that Purvi Patel chose to attempt to self-induce a chemical abortion on her own, rather than get an abortion under medical care, speaks to the difficulty in getting a legal abortion not just in Indiana, but in several other states as well.
In Indiana, getting a legal abortion has become increasingly difficult since Republican Governor Mike Pence took office. Already, abortion clinics – including the one in South Bend, nearest to where Purvi lived at the time – are closing throughout the Hoosier State. A woman seeking an abortion must get an ultrasound and have two visits with a provider.
Throughout the country, as abortion laws are tightening in certain states, more and more women are attempting self-abortions – and are being charged with crimes for the act. For example, in Tennessee, Anna Yocca attempted to perform an abortion on herself using a coat hanger. The baby was born full-term, according to this Inquisitr report, albeit with severe damage from the botched abortion. Yocca was charged with manslaughter, although those charges were later expected to be reduced to simple assault.
In appealing her own sentence, Purvi Patel’s lawyers argued that Indiana’s feticide law should apply to outside their parties who kill a fetus as a criminal act, and not on women who perform, or attempt to perform, abortions on themselves.
The National Advocates for Pregnant Women filed a brief with the court, on Patel’s behalf, arguing that abortion is a health issue and not a criminal one.
“Stillbirths, miscarriages, abortions (including those that are self-induced and do not conform to abortion regulations), and women’s mental health during pregnancy are health issues, not matters for the criminal justice system.”
Prosecutors, meanwhile, insist that Patel was a cold-blooded murderer who took matters into her own hands and that Indiana’s feticide laws must apply attempted self-abortion, by necessity.
“The legislature has never included an exception in the feticide statute to prevent it from being applied to the pregnant woman herself.”
Do you believe that Purvi Patel belongs in prison for attempting to perform an abortion on herself?
[Image courtesy of St. Joseph County Police]