A Miscarriage of Justice Just Sent A Woman to Prison

I am reposting this article about Purvi Patel, I’ve already written about her plight and whenever I see something new I feel, no, I need to share the information because I just can’t believe this is happening in 2015 – but maybe I should because Margaret Atwood warned me when I read her book, The Handmaid’s Tale, but I said, “You are writing Science Fiction in 1985, Margaret. It’s not real, Margaret. It can’t happen in 2015.” Boy, was I wrong. Margaret Atwood was the bell ringer. We need to listen and react.

 Pro-life advocates have been winning this battle for years. 

April 01, 2015 By Jamilah King  

Jamilah King is a TakePart staff writer covering the intersection of race/ethnicity, poverty, gender, and sexuality. http://www.takepart.com

The heartbreaking case of a young woman whose miscarriage landed her a 20-year prison sentence has many Americans wondering what the crime prosecutors called “feticide” really is.

Purvi Patel, 33, was arrested in Indiana in July 2013 after she went to an emergency room after suffering a miscarriage. She was 23–25 weeks pregnant. Patel’s attorneys said she panicked after the baby was born stillborn and threw the fetus into a Dumpster, but prosecutors successfully argued that she gave birth to a live fetus, though they allowed that the baby died within seconds of being born. When she arrived at the hospital sans baby, Patel initially denied having been pregnant, prosecutors said. Patel, who is from a conservative Hindu family that shuns sex outside marriage, had gotten pregnant after having an affair with a coworker, prosecutors said.

Feticide, by definition, is an act that results in the death of an unborn fetus. Many states that have passed feticide laws also have laws that exempt abortion.

Now, Patel is the first woman in the United States to be convicted on a feticide charge. With her case in the national spotlight, it’s important to keep in mind these facts:

The Majority of States Have Feticide Laws on the Books

The issue of fetal rights has long been a contentious one, and for decades it’s been at the center of the debate over women’s reproductive health. As of March 2015, a total of 38 states, including Indiana, have such laws on the books, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Supporters of the laws, who are often pro-life advocates, claim that they are meant to protect the lives of unborn fetuses and the women who carry them.

These Laws Weren’t Necessarily Aimed at Pregnant Women

While the word “feticide” can easily induce outrage, especially among pro-choice advocates, consider the case of Ariel Castro. Two years ago, Castro made headlines for kidnapping, raping, and torturing three women whom he held hostage in his Cleveland home for years. One of the more egregious charges leveled against Castro was that he raped, impregnated, and beat one of the women, Michelle Knight, so many times that she suffered multiple miscarriages. Timothy McGinty, the Ohio prosecutor tasked with bringing charges against Castro, made it clear that he was seeking to punish Castro under the state’s feticide law. “I fully intend to seek charges for each and every act of sexual violence, rape, each day of kidnapping, every felonious assault, and each act of aggravated murder for terminating pregnancies that the offender perpetrated,” McGinty told reporters at the time.

Castro pleaded guilty to 937 criminal counts, including kidnapping, rape, and aggravated murder for the unlawful termination of Knight’s pregnancies. But Castro committed suicide in jail in September 2013, one month into serving a life sentence. Castro’s case gets at what is supposed to be the true intention behind such laws: to prosecute third-party assailants whose violence against pregnant women leads to the death of their unborn fetuses.

Patel Isn’t Alone

While she’s the first woman to be convicted of feticide, Patel is far from the only woman to be charged with a crime in relation to the death of her fetus. In 2011, Bei Bei Shuai, a Chinese American woman, was held in prison for a year after a botched suicide attempt led to her miscarriage. Patel and Shuai are the only women who have been charged for killing an unborn fetus, which has begged the question of what challenges face Asian American women’s reproductive health in Indiana.