Today, the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned the feticide conviction of Purvi Patel, the woman who was found guilty last year of killing her fetus by taking abortion-inducing drugs and sentenced to 20 years in prison. However, the court upheld a lower felony conviction for neglect of a dependent.
In 2013, Patel sought care at a hospital for severe bleeding and told doctors that she’d delivered a stillborn baby at home and discarded its remains in a dumpster. Prosecutors argued that she’d taken abortion-inducing drugs purchased online, which is illegal in the United States, but police could not find evidence, beyond text messages discussing it, that the drugs were purchased. Toxicology reports found no evidence of the drugs in her system. Patel’s attorney said she thought the baby was stillborn. Each side had a pathologist testify to the age of the fetus and whether it was viable, but no one really knows the answer to that.
Patel’s attorney, and other critics of the conviction, argued that the charge of feticide was never meant to be used against a pregnant woman; rather it was intended to punish illegal abortion providers and abusive partners. Plus, it was contradictory to charge her with both the killing of a fetus and neglect of a living, breathing baby. But Indiana is notoriously anti-choice (looking at you, Governor Mike Pence) and some argued the state wanted a conviction however they could get one.
Indiana had previously charged a woman with feticide after she attempted suicide while pregnant but the charge was dropped when she pleaded guilty to a lesser offense. Patel was the first woman to be convicted of feticide in the state for an alleged self-induced abortion — a conviction that has now been dismissed. A bright spot in your record, Indiana.