Conflicting Convictions in Fetal Death Case

A woman nearly my age in Indiana is facing up to seventy years in prison for poor pregnancy outcomes. Ms. Purvi Patel, a single woman and daughter of Indian Hindu immigrant parents, has been found guilty of feticide for inducing an illegal abortion and simultaneously she has been found guilty of child neglect for disposing of the fetus.


Ms. Patel had sent text messages to a friend about obtaining abortion drugs a month prior, but at the time of her miscarriage, there were no abortion drugs detected. Bustle wrote in regards to Indiana’s fetal harm law, “The law also fails to fully account for the reasons why a woman like Patel may wait so long to terminate a pregnancy and self-attempt an abortion. Patel testified in court that she was from a strict Hindu family, and had to hide her pregnancy from her family. Her father testified that he didn’t believe in sex before marriage. The father of Patel’s child was also a married man.”

As Dr. Jen Gunter summarizes on her blog, “The only facts are Ms. Patel went into labor prematurely and hid the body of the fetus. She had no way of knowing how far along she was in the pregnancy and the likely cause of her premature delivery was lack of prenatal care (that is after all the #1 cause of prematurity in the United States). She was found guilty because she didn’t know she was as far along she was in the pregnancy and didn’t call an ambulance (or was to ill/confused to call an ambulance) and then panicked because she didn’t know what to do.”

Slate agrees, and questions the evidence put forth by the prosecution, specifically the “lung float test” which was used to assert Ms. Patel’s fetus was alive at the time of birth and then abandoned. “It’s an absolutely discredited test,” said Gregory Davis, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Kentucky. “It boggles my mind that in the 21st century … this test is still being relied upon to determine whether a baby is born alive or dead.”

The National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) put it best. “Because the State of Indiana did not prove that there was a baby born alive who was then neglected, and because the State used this prosecution to set precedent for harsh punishment of women who have abortions or experience pregnancy losses, NAPW denounces this trial and will work to support the appeal in this case.”

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