Indiana woman gets ‘cruel’ 20-year prison term for fetus death she claims was a miscarriage
An Indiana woman was ordered to serve 20 years in prison for what she says was a miscarriage.
Purvi Patel, 33, was convicted last month of felony neglect of a dependent and feticide after prosecutors said she caused the death of her newborn son by taking drugs from China to induce an abortion and then failing to provide medical care.
Prosecutors sought a 40-year prison term, but St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Hurley imposed a 30-year sentence for the neglect conviction, with 10 years suspended, and an overlapping six-year sentence for feticide.
Critics say Patel was prosecuted on conflicting charges.
“How can you both have caused a pregnancy to terminate and given birth to a baby whom you neglect?” said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW).
The Granger woman was arrested in July 2013 after she went to an emergency room for treatment of heavy bleeding.
Investigators said Patel at first denied she had been pregnant but eventually admitted to giving premature birth at home.
She told authorities the fetus was not alive, so she placed its remains in a Dumpster behind the Moe’s Southwest Grill owned by her family in Mishawaka.
Patel’s attorneys said she hid the pregnancy from her conservative Hindu parents because she had gotten pregnant by a married co-worker.
A toxicologist testified during Patel’s trial that no trace of abortion-causing drugs was found in her bloodstream, and critics say an expert witness used a discredited method for determining whether the fetus was born alive.
Some critics said the case showed how broadly written feticide laws could be used to prosecute women who have miscarriages or seek abortions.
“While no woman should face criminal charges for having an abortion or experiencing a pregnancy loss, the cruel length of this sentence confirms that feticide and other measures promoted by anti-abortion organizations are intended to punish not protect women,” Paltrow said in a statement.
The judge said she considered Patel’s previously clean criminal record and a letter of remorse she wrote to the court, but she told the woman she was troubled by her actions.
“You, Ms. Patel, are an educated woman of considerable means,” Hurley said. “If you wished to terminate your pregnancy safely and legally, you could have done so. You planned a course of action and took matters into your own hands.”