Purvi Patel, the woman whose 20 year feticide conviction for self-inducing an abortion was recently overturned by the Indiana Court of Appeals, was released from jail this morning. Yesterday a judge called for her immediate release after ruling that she has already served the full term of her 18 month re-sentencing for neglect of a dependent, a conviction that the appeals court reduced from a Class A to a Class D felony.
In July 2013, Patel sought help at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka, Indiana for heavy vaginal bleeding. At first, Patel did not tell medical staff that she had been pregnant, but she later informed doctors that she had had a miscarriage at home. There is no dispute that Patel ordered drugs online to induce an abortion, but it was disputed whether Patel actually delivered a live baby. Also disputed was whether Patel knew the gestational age of the fetus. Evidence at trial showed that Patel believed she was only around 12 weeks pregnant. In 2015, a jury convicted her of feticide and neglect of a dependent.
But the Court of Appeals disagreed, ruling that the intention of the feticide law was to prosecute third party actors who attack pregnant women, not women who self-induce abortion, and thus did not apply to Patel’s case. This ruling provided a legal precedent against the use of feticide laws to punish women who have abortions, women who are suspected of having abortions, and women who miscarry. The state declined to appeal the case to the Indiana Supreme Court.
Patel is the first woman in the country to have been convicted of feticide for self-inducing an abortion. Thirty-eight states have feticide laws, and reproductive rights advocates say turning them against pregnant women sets a dangerous precedent in the wake of widespread state laws limiting women’s access to abortion.