Sometime today in an Indiana court, a 33-year-old woman will find out if she faces up to 70 years in prison. Her crime? She had a miscarriage and then went to a hospital because she was experiencing heavy bleeding.
Purvi Patel’s saga of heartbreak and legal jeopardy began in 2013 when she went to an Indiana emergency room complaining of extremely heavy bleeding. Ms. Patel initially denied she had been pregnant when asked by hospital officials, but then recanted and admitted she’d had a premature delivery in her home, placed what she assumed was a deceased fetus in a bag, and placed the bag in a dumpster on her way to the hospital.
Soon the police were also involved. They searched Patel’s cell phone records, located the the fetus, and began asking very personal questions. Patel, however, maintains that the child was not alive when she placed it in the dumpster:
“I assumed because the baby was dead there was nothing to do. I’ve never been in this situation. I’ve never been pregnant before.”
But state officials were soon alleging that Patel had sought to purchase illegal abortion-producing drugs online despite the fact that there were no traces of such drugs found in Patel’s bloodstream. They also charged Patel with having abandoned a living child and the crime of feticide, a law which is on the books in 38 states across the country.
Then in February an Indiana jury found Purvi Patel guilty of “fetal murder of an unborn child” and “neglect of a dependent.” The charges carry a sentence of 70 years.
But there are a raft of legal issues involved in this case, not the least of which is that Patel was questioned in the hospital without a lawyer present, a direct contravention of the Miranda rights every person is entitled to. Additionally, expert witnesses presented at Patel’s trial could never agree on the true gestational age of the fetus or whether or not it was alive at the time Patel discarded of it.
Lynn Paltrow, the executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), says what she finds so troubling about the case is the contradictory nature of the two crimes Patel was convicted of:
“It’s confusing why a prosecutor would be allowed to bring such contradictory charges. How can you both have caused a pregnancy to terminate and given birth to a baby whom you neglect?”
Indiana, like many states controlled by conservative Republican legislatures and governors, has for years sought to punish women for anything they perceive as giving the right to choose to individuals. Keep in mind these are the same people who continually rail against government being too present in the lives of citizens. Their hypocrisy is disgusting and may well cost a woman the rest of her life in prison.
Does that seem like a truly just end to this story?
This article was originally published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org.