Health Reproductive Rights

It’s Been a Month: Purvi Patel is Still in Prison for a Miscarriage

Purvi Patel, a 33-year-old Indian-American who was convicted in Indiana for a miscarriage, has now been in prison for more than 30 days.

via St. Joseph County Police Department
via St. Joseph County Police Department

Indiana claims Patel took illegal abortion-inducing drugs, that her fetus was born alive, and that the fetus subsequently died.

The convictions for feticide and child neglect were based on little to no evidence, and on junk science that was literally created in the 17th century and is highly contested by scientists. Activists were outraged, noting no one should be punished for having a miscarriage. The case moved activists to create a petition calling for Gov. Mike Pence and the Indiana State Legislature to change the Indiana laws that punish women who miscarry

Patel filed an appeal last month arguing there is no proof she took illegal abortion-inducing drugs.

In the newest issue of Ms. magazine, authors Deepa Iyer and Gaylynn Burroughs warn that Patel’s conviction represents the way women have been – and will be – treated by current anti-woman laws:

Patel’s case should set alarm bells ringing in the minds of all those concerned with the welfare of pregnant women. This case may indeed open the door to more legislative, criminal and legal attacks on pregnant women. We must work together to close this door, once and for all. The health and well-being of all women are at stake.

(Read more from the Ms. Spring 2015 issue here.)

At least 38 states have these troubling feticide laws on the books, and 23 of them are laws that apply to early stages of pregnancy.

Since the appeal, St. Joseph County courts will get case transcripts to Patel’s lawyers, who will submit a brief to the state Court of Appeals. While it could take more than a year for the court to reach a decision about whether the convictions should be overturned, Patel is in prison – serving her 20-year sentence.

“What the Patel case demonstrates is that both women who have abortions and those who experience pregnancy loss may now be subject to investigation, arrest, public trial and incarceration,” wrote Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. “Pregnancy loss is not uncommon: some 15-20 percent of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage; one percent of pregnancies—approximately 26,000 each year—result in stillbirth. Following the Patel case, however, any miscarriage or stillbirth could be investigated as feticide (an ‘illegal’ self-abortion).”

Click here to sign the petition to tell Gov. Mike Pence and the Indiana State Legislature that these anti-woman Indiana laws need to be changed so women aren’t punished for having a miscarriage.

Media Resources: Ms. magazine spring 2015 issue; Feminist Newswire 4/29/2015; Feministing 4/2015

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