Purvi Patel was sentenced Monday to 41 years in prison on charges of feticide and felony neglect of a dependent after an Indiana jury in early February found her guilty of the charges. She was ordered to serve 20 years in prison after receiving a 30-year sentence on the felony neglect charge, with an additional ten years suspended
And all because she… well, what did she do?
The state argued that Patel took drugs to induce a miscarriage but that instead of miscarrying, she delivered a live fetus that she subsequently abandoned.
Over the course of the seven-day trial, prosecutors failed to introduce any evidence that Patel ingested the drugs the prosecution claimed she ordered. The state’s own toxicologist, Dr. Prentice Jones, Jr., admitted that he couldn’t find any evidence of abortifacients in Patel’s system.
State prosecutors failed to introduce scientifically rigorous evidence to support the felony neglect charge, which requires proof that Patel’s fetus had been born alive.
To support that charge, the state’s forensic pathologist, Joseph Prahlow, used a discredited “float test,” which tests for air in the lungs. Float tests are not widely accepted in the scientific community as a proper method for establishing whether a fetus was born alive.
Witnesses at trial could not agree on the fetus’s gestational age. Prosecutors and state experts claimed that Patel’s fetus was 25 to 28 weeks’ gestation. Patel’s best friend, however, testified that Patel, who did not take the stand in her own defense, believed she was about two months pregnant
Which wasn’t enough to prove innocence. Yet the prosecutor’s belief in her guilt was enough to convict her of two crimes, despite the lack of evidence and contradictory testimony.
You cannot find a better summary of the anti-choice movement: they punish people on the basis of pseudoscience, granting the fetus more rights than a fully grown functional member of society. Criminalizing pregnancy is their end goal, whether they realize it or not, because
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. Indeed, Patel has consistently said that she experienced a miscarriage that she, like most women in this situation, was unprepared to handle. 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).