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In Egregious "Feticide" Case, Woman Fights Back Against Reproductive Injustice

Purvi Patel is first woman in U.S. history to be sentenced to prison for losing her own pregnancy

Purvi Patel was convicted in 2015. (Photo: File)

An Indiana woman sentenced to 20 years in prison for losing her own pregnancy will appeal her conviction on Monday in the latest development of the controversial "feticide" case.

Purvi Patel, who was convicted of feticide and neglect of a dependent in April 2015, will argue that the law used to convict her was "passed to protect pregnant women from violence," not to outlaw abortion. She will file the claim with the Indiana Court of Appeals, the state's second-highest court.

Patel was arrested in 2013 after she sought treatment for blood loss at an emergency room in South Bend, where she told doctors she'd had a miscarriage and stillbirth. But prosecutors successfully argued that she had taken drugs to induce an abortion and had delivered her fetus alive before abandoning it in a dumpster behind her family's restaurant.

In an appellate brief filed last fall, Patel's attorneys argued that there were "multiple errors" in how the state interpreted the feticide law and that it in fact has "no role in criminalizing unlawful abortions, which are dealt with through a separate statute."

The prosecution also failed to show that there was "anything Patel could have done—or known to do—to save the baby within the less than a minute it could have lived," the brief stated.

The National Advocates for Pregnant Women published a blog post on Monday slamming the state's misuse of the law to convict Patel, writing:


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Although Indiana has no law permitting punishment of pregnant people who have or attempt to have abortions, prosecutors misused the state’s feticide law -- passed to protect pregnant women from violence -- [to] instead, re-criminalize abortion and send Ms. Patel to prison. And, because the prosecution did not have any actual evidence that Ms. Patel had a live birth and neglected a newborn, the prosecution focused on her actions and omissions during pregnancy, including her abortion to win a conviction on the neglect of a dependent charge. Ms. Patel has already served more than a year behind bars.

Numerous women's advocacy groups, along with Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, have also filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of Patel.

Jill E. Abrams, executive director of the Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice, told the Associated Press this week that the case marked the first time that the Indiana feticide law was used to prosecute a woman for an "allegedly self-induced abortion."

"Prosecutors have been very creative and very egregious, stretching far beyond the letter of the law and even the legislative intent behind the law," she said.

The case is set to be heard at 2:00pm EST.

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