Abortion

Purvi Patel Appeals 20-Year Feticide Sentence for Self-Induced Abortion

Patel was sentenced to 20 years in prison for taking the abortion pill without a doctor's supervision-or at least that's how her supporters portray the situation.

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www.soc.ucsb.edu/sexinfo

Feticide laws were originally enacted to punish crimes against pregnant women that also result in the death of the fetus inside her. Indiana is now using its feticide law to punish a woman for possibly self-inducing an abortion. Last year, the state sentenced Purvi Patel to 20 years in prison for taking the abortion pill without a doctor's supervision—or at least that's how Patlel's supporters portray the situation. The complicated and controversial case came before the Indiana Court of Appeals on Monday.  

According to documents from Patel's trial, she became pregnant in 2013 and decided to have an abortion because she feared what her religious parents would think. But Patel was also worried that it was too late for her to be prescribed the abortion pill, which is only approved for use through the ninth week of pregnancy. Text messages she sent to a friend said she had ordered the drugs herself from a pharmacy in Hong Kong, although Patel's defense claimed at trial that she never took the drugs.

Indeed, testing found no traces of the abortion drugs in Patel's system. But as Homicide Crime Scene Technician Tom Cameron testified at Patel's trial, there is no scientifically reliable way to test for those medications. 

The situation came to the attention of police when Patel showed up to the St. Joseph hospital emergency room with excessive bleeding. When pressed, she claimed that she had miscarried, giving birth to a stillborn. Patel said she deposited the stillborn fetus in a dumpster behind the restaurant (owned by Patel's family) where she worked. Hospital staff reported this information to local police, who then found the fetus and arrested Patel.

She was charged with both feticide and child neglect. Prosecutors said the charges were not contradictory, as Patel could have illegally attempted to terminate her pregnancy, given birth to a live child anyway, and then let it die. A jury agreed, finding her guilty on both accounts. 

Appearing before the appeals court yesterday, Patel's lawyer, Lawrence Marshall, argued that "the evidence in this case [for a child neglect charge] 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." As for the feticide charge, Marshall argued that Indiana's feticide statute was not intended to be applied to women for "unlawful abortion." The state, of course, claimed otherwise.

It's not clear when the appeals court will issue its decision. 

"If this case were only about a woman who clearly gave birth to a live baby and then killed her child, it would be clear cut," noted The New York Times' Emily Bazelon last year.  

There is a line between pregnancy and birth, and once it is crossed, the state has just as much at stake in protecting the life of a newborn as it does in protecting the life of anyone else. But the evidence that Patel's baby was born alive is sharply contested. The pathologist who testified for the defense, Shaku Teas, said the baby was stillborn. Teas told the court the fetus was at 23 or 24 weeks gestation and that its lungs weren't developed enough to breathe. (Here's more support for this position.) But the pathologist for the prosecution, Joseph Prahlow, testified that the fetus was further along than that — at 25 to 30 weeks gestation, which is past the point of viability — and was born alive.

[…] Whatever happened to Patel and her baby at the point of delivery, it's hard to imagine that either the prosecution or the judge at sentencing would have come down as hard on her if they weren't sure she'd tried to induce her own illegal abortion. And this is where Patel's case moves from a fight over birth to a fight over pregnancy.

More than two-dozen self-described "health and bioethics experts" and "reproductive justice and women's rights organizations"—including New York University Law School's Carr Center for Reproductive Justice and the National Advocates for Pregnant Women—filed an amici curiae brief in support of Patel before her trial. "The prosecution of Purvi Patel will undermine public health and violate numerous fundamental constitutional rights in the service of no compelling, important, or even rational purpose," they wrote. "The prosecution seeks to establish the principle that by becoming pregnant, women may be subject to criminal charges depending on the circumstances of or outcomes of those pregnancies, including the all too common experiences of stillbirth. … Stillbirths, miscarriages, abortions (including those that are self-induced and do not conform to abortion regulations), and women's mental health during pregnancy are health issues, not matters for the criminal justice system."

At least one judge on the Indiana Court of Appeals seems sympathetic to this view. During yesterday's hearing, Judge L. Mark Bailey questioned whether the use of other harmful substances, such as cigarettes or alcohol, would justify feticide charges in the event that something went wrong with the pregnancy. "I mean, what is it that we're going to start prosecuting here?" Bailey asked.  

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller stated that "the state's position remains that … the trial court acted within their discretion under this tragic set of circumstances."

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  1. It’s an uncomplicated issue. If you want more women going to prison because they get pregnant and don’t want to have a kid, vote trump, who will appoint people to the SC who love the Baby Jesus as much as GOP church ladies love him.

    1. Better they starve to death in utopia, eh?

      1. He is everything progressive retards project their fears on.

        1. Ah right, I remember how Romney was going to round up the gays and throw them in the back of Mercedes L3000s.

          1. Yep, and don’t forget he also had binders for of women, the protards had no idea what that meant, but they knew it was something evil.

          2. I thought he was going to put them in a cage on the top of his station wagon.

          3. Ever been in the back of a Mercedes L3000 with a gay person? Good fuckin times.

      2. I’ve argued– in his favor– that he has no real core convictions of any sort. The people of whom he has mentioned as SC picks unfortunately do.

        http://www.ibtimes.com/donald-…..ti-2370907

        1. Sykes is a judge on the Seventh Circuit and former justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. She was nominated by Bush and lauded by conservatives for a ruling in Ezell v. Chicago, which prevented the city from instituting a ban on firing ranges in the city. She also opposed abortion.

          This is why you can’t have wimmenz on the highest court.

      3. Today? Well, it’s a Tuesday, so I think “yes”.

        Joking aside, he used to say he was pro-choice, now he says he’s pro-life, but in that one week period where he actually answered questions on it he took I think five different stances on what his “pro-life” stance would actually mean in practice.

        So if you take him at his word, he’s currently pro-life.

        But I’d argue that if you take him at his word, you’ve made a fatal error in judgement.

  2. because she feared what her religious parents would think.

    Second mistake.

    1. I count at least two.

    2. Yeah, she had sex with a man. Burn the witch, I say. Ever engage in slut shaming while you were advocating for limited government as a paid mercenary in Iraq?

      1. Were you ever even slightly curious about what these people actually believe or have you always just emoted?

      2. I see reading comprehension is right up there with paying your debts on the list of things you can’t do.

        1. There are no debts in socialism. Only Jewish banking conspiracies.

        2. What did you mean then about two mistakes? What was the first?

          1. Getting pregnant, you retard.

            1. There we go. How do you get pregnant? The stork, right?

              1. You really are a fucking moron.

                You claimed I was slut-shaming.

                I don’t give a flying fuck whether she fucks the entire football team and half the cheerleaders on the 50 yard line at halftime of homecoming. Good for her.

                But she was irresponsible and got knocked up when she didn’t want to. THAT’S a mistake any fucking way you slice it.

                Of course, it makes sense that you, the shitbag who doesn’t honor his contracts, would understand the first thing about individual responsibility.

          2. Being a running dog capitalist roader. Her family exploited the poor working class in their restaurant.

      3. Ever engage in slut shaming while you were advocating for limited government as a paid mercenary in Iraq?

        NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL EDGY!

  3. Purvi Patel

    Excellent porn name, btw.

    1. Barbie does Bollywood starring Purvi Patel.

        1. You mean standing OVULATION

  4. If only women would keep their thingies in their pants we wouldn’t have any problem.

    1. You’ve taken a bizarre interest in this case, flinging out non-Sequiturs like so much poo from a monkey. Did you get Purvi pregnant? More importantly, could you have gotten Purvi pregnant?

    2. IUDs?

    3. Yeah, Reason is just a hotbed of anti-sex social conservatives. You’ve got us nailed.

        1. At least I didn’t say “pegged”.

          1. +1 Happy International Women’s Day!

      1. Yeah, Reason is just a hotbed of anti-sex social conservatives. You’ve got us nailed.

        And, if you think having sex, having sex without contraception, getting pregnant, and secretly aborting the pregnancy to avoid awkward holidays with the family or being ejected from the family entirely is needlessly complicated you must be a big-government SoCon RINO out to stitch every woman’s vagina shut.

        1. Her family issues are her problem– not mine or my governments.

        2. I’m not sure what you are trying to say.

          1. You can be in favor of women having responsible sex (in dozens of different forms) and still be a libertarian/conservative/feminist/etc.

            Fetus aside, she showed up in the ER bleeding from her abdomen from a chronic self-inflicted wound. SoCon/libertarian/feminist doesn’t matter, this is clearly a sub-optimal scenario on a lot of fronts well before it got to court.

            1. I agree with that. She made poor decisions. I was just reacting to the idiot acting like everyone here is some kind of prude. While we do have diversity of opinion on matters of sexuality and abortion (which I don’t think is a terrible thing, good to have some diversity of opinion), but the majority is hardly supporting enforced chastity and modesty.

            2. And you can be a social conservative and a libertarian. Not trying to take a shot at socons (this time). Just puzzled by American idiot’s apparent assumptions.

              1. @Zeb he also assumes libertarians are pro Iraq-invasion & pro PMC. I wouldnt put too much effort into unravelling his trolling.

    4. Are you asserting that she didn’t know where babies come from? No? Then she intentionally got pregnant and later regretted the decision. And as far as the religious parents go – possible, but the more likely excuse is the girl didn’t want the responsibility of caring for a child. Funny how she didn’t consider either the parents or the obligation to raise a baby when she decided to make a baby.

      That being said, there were legal means available – this was 40 years after Roe after all. A trip to Planned Parenthood and they would have GLEEFULLY performed a legal abortion, subsidized by the taxpayer (or charitable donors, if you must). Heck it’s a win-win since the parts could have been sold off instead of wasting away in a dumpster.

      This is an odd and sad case. I haven’t seen enough evidence to convince me the girl deserves to be spending time in prison, but the notion that she is blameless or the victim of some religious conservatives is a bit of a stretch.

      1. Assuming that people do have the right to control what goes on in their own bodies (which happens to be my assumption). No, she isn’t blameless, but nor should she be criminally liable because she took some drug in a way not officially approved by the FDA.

        And no, she didn’t intentionally get pregnant. Intention has to do with one’s state of mind, not necessarily with the predictable consequences of a decision. “Recklessly” would be a better word.

        1. Why is it reckless to have sex, get pregnant, and then have an abortion? We all agree as libertarians that people should have control over their bodies, correct?

          1. Because abortions are unpleasant, even if you have no moral objection, and there are pretty effective ways to avoid getting pregnant.

            I’m very much for legal abortion, but it’s not a good birth control plan.

            I don’t mean criminally reckless.

          2. 1. You aren’t a libertarian.

            2. My wife and I had regular sex for 10 fucking years without a single pregnancy scare before we got pregnant with our oldest on our first try. Pregnancy is a foreseeable consequence of unprotected sex. Having said that, if her parents are indeed religious nuts (all too likely a scenario, even today), it’s possible she had no idea about contraceptives and no access to birth control pills.

            1. Having said that, if her parents are indeed religious nuts (all too likely a scenario, even today), it’s possible she had no idea about contraceptives and no access to birth control pills.

              She was fucking 33 years old when she aborted.

          3. And no, she didn’t intentionally get pregnant. Intention has to do with one’s state of mind, not necessarily with the predictable consequences of a decision.

            For legal purposes, intentionality can include the predictable consequences of an action, regardless of whether you desired those consequences. It gets fuzzy between “intentional” and “reckless”, but “intentional” does not necessarily mean “desired”. Intentionality in criminal law often extends no further than “Did you intend to do action X”, not “did you intend the result of action X”.

  5. So, what the hell is reasonable doubt? Seems like there is plenty of reasonable doubt both as to whether she took the drugs and whether there was a live birth. Whatever you think of abortion and fetucide laws, this seems like a miscarriage of justice.

    1. It’s miscarriages all the way up.

    2. Are we not doing phrasing anymore?

    3. there is no scientifically reliable way to test for those medications

      Case dismissed.

      1. Yeah, that’s why I ask what the hell reasonable doubt is supposed to mean. That fact should in no way be seen as supporting the prosecution’s case.
        If “we have no way of telling whether X happened or not” isn’t reasonable doubt about whether X happened, I don’t know what is.

        It would be kind of fun to be on a jury sometime. But I’d probably either just get rejected or get a boring case where I wouldn’t have a chance to make a nuisance of myself.

        1. She had a shit defense attorney if he didn’t argue that very thing in court.

      2. Parsing the case, could she have been found guilty of the second chart, child neglect?

        1. I think that charge depended on the child being born alive. Or that’s how the write-up here made it sound. And there seemed to be a reasonable doubt there as well.

          The worst she should have gotten is improper disposal of biological waste.

        2. But the evidence that Patel’s baby was born alive is sharply contested.

          If that’s the case, it sounds like reasonable doubt to me (but I’m no lawyer).

          1. I’m not arguing the reasonable doubt aspect. I agree that if there’s no scientific way of verifying if she took the pills, then as you said above, case dismissed– on that charge at least. It seems to me that charge is invalid on its face.

          2. Whther something was “sharply contested” really doesn’t cast any light on whether there was “reasonable doubt”. Lawyers can argue, vehemently, for hours about things that are perfectly obvious.

  6. These laws come from politicians in the pocket of Big-Coathanger.

  7. “There is a line between pregnancy and birth, and once it is crossed, the state has just as much at stake in protecting the life of a newborn as it does in protecting the life of anyone else. But the evidence that Patel’s baby was born alive is sharply contested.”

    The fact fact that a woman can plausibly defend herself from charges of killing her own child by saying “I killed it before I gave birth,” says all you need to know about how our pro-abortion policies have messed us up morally.

    1. Well, if you have already decided on the immorality of abortion, it does.

      1. But it seems fairly clearly arbitrary to have a law where the line between “a person protected by law” and “an unperson who can be lawfully destroyed” is based on whether it lived a few extra minutes while exiting the birth canal.

        1. This is true. But difficulty in making a distinction does not mean a distinction does not exist. Reality is messy.

          1. What do personhood-begins-at-birth laws have to do with reality?

            1. what would a personhood begins with a zygote have to do with reality? should every miscarriage become a homicide investigation? you know theres more miscarriages than births, right?

              1. Wow, you got me there.

                Because miscarriages are crimes, or something.

    2. In some states, you can plausibly defend yourself on charges of murder by saying “I was scared [of the fleeing vehicle]/[of the pedestrian walking in front of my car]/[of the guy I met in the bar so I went back to my car to get my gun and shoot him from behind]/[so-on]”

      So I’m not sure “I didn’t induce an abortion, I miscarried” is that out-of-line with contemporary law in other cases in which it’s a “he-said/she-said” deal but with one of he/she is already dead.

  8. Teas told the court the fetus was at 23 or 24 weeks gestation and that its lungs weren’t developed enough to breathe.

    We have, I believe, 2 or 3 babies born at 24 weeks in our NICU right now. Its touch and go when they are that premature, and maybe this particular baby had unusually underdeveloped lungs, but we save a fair number of 24 week babies every year here. I’m somewhat skeptical that this baby really had no chance whatsoever. Maybe an expert I trusted could convince me otherwise, but I work literally yards from babies that age who will survive and thrive.

    Not a single expert ever said?in any sort of declarative way?that yes, this infant would have survived had Ms. Patel done differently.

    Then they probably didn’t ask an OB Hospitalist the right question. Or, he’s misrepresenting their response, because if they had asked, most would have said “There are no guarantees, but I would expect a baby at this stage of development to have a 1 in X chance of surviving.”

    Naturally, it all comes down to whether the baby was born alive. If it was, then I think she committed some flavor of manslaughter here.

  9. I’m not arguing the reasonable doubt aspect. I agree that if there’s no scientific way of verifying if she took the pills, then as you said above, case dismissed– on that charge at least. It seems to me that charge is invalid on its face
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