Indiana Woman to Serve 20 Years for Feticide in US First

Purvi Patel is first to be convicted, sentenced in feticide of own pregnancy
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2015 2:44 PM CDT
Indiana Woman to Serve 20 Years for Feticide in US First
Purvi Patel is taken into custody after being sentenced to 20 years in prison for feticide and neglect of a dependent, Monday, March 30, 2015.   (AP Photo/South Bend Tribune, Robert Franklin)

On Monday, 33-year-old Purvi Patel became the first US woman to be "charged, convicted, and sentenced for the crime of feticide for having attempted to end her own pregnancy," according to a press release issued by National Advocates for Pregnant Women. In its report, the Washington Post notes that while the 20-year sentence she is due to serve "brought an end to Patel’s trial ... it may be only the beginning of the public debate about the details of her case." The case began in July 2013, when Patel went to St. Joseph Hospital in Mishawaka, Indiana, bleeding and with a protruding umbilical cord, a doctor testified. Patel later revealed that she had a miscarriage and had left the fetus, which she says was stillborn, in a dumpster. Prosecutors argued the baby was born alive, hence the child neglect charge.

The feticide charge (which PRI frames as "normally used against those who harm pregnant women") was based on text messages Patel sent indicating she had taken drugs purchased from China in an attempt to abort her fetus, reports the AP; tests showed no such drugs in her or the fetus, however. She was in February found guilty on both counts, though many have argued the two charges were "legally contradictory." PRI reports that the gestational age of the fetus was fiercely debated at the trial. Her defense argued it was at most 24 weeks old, and would not have survived even with medical intervention; NBC News reports prosecutors argued she was 25 weeks along in their opening statement, and the aforementioned doctor testified that he thought the fetus was as many as 30 weeks. Patel indicated she would appeal. (In Indiana, a man was charged with attempted feticide after police say he spiked a woman's drink with special herbs.)

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