In March 2015, 33-year-old Indiana woman Purvi Patel was convicted of feticide for illegally self-inducing an abortion with pills purchased online and for dumping a baby that was allegedly alive. Her minimum 20-year sentence has prompted women's rights groups around the nation to question the state's interpretation of the law, as well as its attitude towards abortion. Now, a final ruling on Patel's October appeal is being negotiated by the Indiana Court of Appeals, The Indianapolis Star reported on Tuesday. As he outlined the appeal to the court on Monday, defense attorney Lawrence Marshall sharply criticized the state's use of the feticide law to condemn abortion.
The evidence in this case was not there whatsoever. Not a single expert ever said — in any sort of declarative way — that yes, this infant would have survived had Ms. Patel done differently.
According to him, the prosecutors did not provide evidence that the baby could have lived if it had been taken to a hospital. Ultimately, the appeal could depend on whether or not the court chooses to believe the child was alive or dead. Judge Nancy Vaidik likened the case to a different scenario.
Someone is about ready to die of cancer, and someone shoots them. That person is guilty of murder. I mean, we don't say, "Oh, they only had another five hours to live." And that's what I'm struggling with.
During the initial conviction, prosecutors maintained that the fetus was alive when born. Patel's attorneys noted in the appeal, however, that her two convictions — feticide and neglect of a dependent — are mutually exclusive, because the first mandates the fetus was killed, while the second suggests it was alive and able to experience neglect.
Upon arriving to the emergency room after allegedly delivering a stillborn in July 2013, she claimed to have thrown the fetus' remains in a dumpster. Prosecutors, however, alleged that she had illegally purchased abortifacients online. They also maintained that the baby could have lived if she had sought out proper medical care for it. Patel said she believed she was only 10-12 weeks pregnant and that she, therefore, did not expect the fetus to live.
According to pro-life activists, abortion laws were not intended to target women. Instead, they were meant to punish doctors for illegally performing the procedure. For example, the Pro-Life Action League, a non-profit organization that opposes abortion, spoke on behalf of the pro-life movement in response to the question, "Why do you want to throw women in jail if they have abortions?"
The pro-life movement does not want to put women in jail for having abortions. Pro-lifers consider women to be victimized by abortion.
An amendment to Indiana's feticide law was passed in 2009 and, as Patel's attorneys argued in the appeal, was intended to protect pregnant women by mandating harsher prison sentences for people who injured them or their unborn child. It is unclear when, specifically, a ruling on Patel's sentence will be reached.