Purvi Patel was the first woman in America to be convicted of "feticide"—a euphemism for abortion—and jailed 20 years after suffering a miscarriage that prosecutors claim was induced by illegally-procured drugs. The feticide conviction was quashed today by an appeals court, but it affirmed the felony conviction for "neglect of a dependent."
The appeals court ruled that the state Legislature didn't intend for the feticide law "to be used to prosecute women for their own abortions."
As for the neglect conviction, we hold that the State presented sufficient evidence for a jury to find that Patel was subjectively aware that the baby was born alive and that she knowingly endangered the baby by failing to provide medical care, but that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the baby would not have died but for Patel’s failure to provide medical care. Therefore, we vacate Patel’s class A felony conviction and remand to the trial court with instructions to enter judgment of conviction for class D felony neglect of a dependent and resentence her accordingly.
The neglect charge (Patel claimed stillbirth, prosecutors argued that the fetus was alive for a period of seconds after birth) is still serious; the statute book allows for six months to three years, though news reports suggest lenience is not unheard of.
From the original story:
According to Sue Ellen Braunlin, doctor and co-president of the Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice, Purvi was most likely 23-24 weeks pregnant, although prosecutors argued Patel was 25 weeks along in the state's opening argument. The prosecution confirmed on Monday that the baby died within seconds of being born.
Patel's lawyers argued that she panicked when she realized she was in labor. Patel comes from a conservative Hindu family that looks down on sex outside marriage, and the pregnancy was a result of an affair Patel had with her co-worker.
"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," said Deepa Iyer, Activist-in-Residence at the University of Maryland's Asian American Studies Program and former director of South Asian Americans Leading Together.