Update: Purvi Patel will be released from jail following the overturn of her conviction for feticide, NBC News reported on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Judge Elizabeth C. Hurley ruled that a sentence of 18 months was appropriate for a felony conviction of neglect of a dependent, opening the door for Patel's release on time served. Patel's conviction of feticide and her 20-year sentence was overturned on appeal in July after the court ruled that Indiana’s law could not be used to prosecute women for their own abortions.
Hurley said Patel should be immediately released from prison, according to NBC News.
Update: July 22, 2016: The Indiana Court of Appeals has overturned the conviction of Purvi Patel, who was sentenced to prison for allegedly inducing her own abortion in 2015.
The court ruled on Friday that the feticide law under which Patel was convicted was not intended to prosecute women for their own abortions, according to The Associated Press. The state’s attorneys had argued that the law could apply to a pregnant woman, and that the fetus had briefly lived outside the womb.
Patel was sentenced to two decades in prison after allegedly inducing her own abortion using drugs she purchased online. Patel has maintained that she suffered a miscarriage, which was discovered when she sought medical treatment for profuse bleeding.
Update: May 24, 2016: Lawyers for Purvi Patel appealed her 20-year sentence for feticide and neglect to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Indiana on Monday, according to The Indianapolis Star.
Patel was convicted in 2015 of feticide and neglect for allegedly using drugs she purchased online to end her pregnancy. Prosecutors alleged she had delivered a live child, which she then allowed to die through neglect. Patel asserted the fetus had been stillborn. She was sentenced to 30 years, with 10 years suspended, after being found guilty on both counts. She is the first woman in the United States to be convicted and sentenced for attempting a self-induced abortion, according to The Guardian.
In the appeal, Patel’s lawyers are contending that there is no evidence that the fetus had been delivered alive, or could have been saved through medical intervention after the abortion. “The evidence in this case was not there, whatsoever," her attorney, Lawrence Marshall, told The Indianapolis Star.
Patel was convicted under a feticide law intended to protect pregnant women from being harmed by domestic partners or third parties. Critics, including Patel’s lawyers, say that the law was never intended to apply to pregnant women, themselves.
This story was originally published on March 30, 2015.
An Indiana woman who says she had a miscarriage received a 30-year prison sentence Monday, after a jury convicted her in February of feticide and child neglect. The sad case is part of a trend that reproductive rights advocates worry could have serious consequences for pregnant women.
Purvi Patel, 33, went to a hospital in July 2013 to get treatment for vaginal bleeding. After first denying she had been pregnant, she told doctors she had given birth to a child she thought was dead. The body of a fetus was found later in a dumpster. Exactly what happened to Patel and the baby was the centerpiece of the case against her: While Patel has maintained that she had a miscarriage, prosecutors argued that she intended to have an illegal abortion, and that her attempt led her to give birth and abandon her child.
Patel was convicted of two crimes that should be mutually exclusive, as The Guardian reported. Child neglect requires a baby to be alive at the moment of birth, and feticide implies a fetus has died in the womb. Medical experts for the defense and prosecution argued over whether the fetus was alive or far enough along to be viable when Patel gave birth, but the jury still decided to convict her on both charges.
Prosecutors said that text messages on her phone showed that Patel wanted to buy drugs that would induce a miscarriage. However, medical tests found no evidence of abortifacients in Patel's blood.
While the circumstances of Patel's case are tragic, there are still many questions about what actually happened to her, whether she did anything intentional, and how much Patel may have known about her pregnancy before she ended up in the hospital.
The controversy surrounding this case has some worried that more women will be prosecuted for having miscarriages or complications during pregnancy. There are already fetal homicide laws in 38 states; in at least 23 of those states the laws extend to all stages of pregnancy — even before a woman might know she is pregnant, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Supporters in Indiana say it is not intended to target pregnant women. However, Patel isn't even the first woman in that state to face charges after losing a pregnancy. In 2011, Bei Bei Shuai was charged with feticide after she attempted suicide; she survived, but her pregnancy ended. She and prosecutors eventually reached a plea deal.
Many other states have laws that criminalize drug use by pregnant women. Tennessee first charged a woman for using drugs while pregnant under a new fetal harm law in July.