Woman could face 70 years in prison after reporting miscarriage

theGrio REPORT - 33-year-old Purvi Patel was arrested in 2013 after she went to the emergency room and admitted to having a miscarriage.

33-year-old Purvi Patel was arrested in 2013 after she went to the emergency room and admitted to having a miscarriage.

Patel arrived at the hospital to be treated for heavy bleeding. Although she denied being pregnant at first, she finally told the staff that she had miscarried and had placed the fetus, which she believed was dead, in a dumpster on her way to the hospital.

“I assumed because the baby was dead there was nothing to do,” Patel later said to law enforcement. “I’ve never been in this situation. I’ve never been pregnant before.”

Patel’s pregnancy occurred as a result of a sexual relationship between Patel and a married coworker, and she wanted to keep the pregnancy hidden from her conservative Hindu parents. She said she was shocked by the premature delivery and did not realize how far along she was.

However, Patel is now being charged with both “fetal murder of an unborn child” and “neglect of a dependent.” Officials claimed that there was evidence Patel had taken abortion-inducing drugs (though a drug test did not reveal any traces of drugs) to try to lose the fetus. Further, they alleged that the child was still alive when Patel abandoned it in the dumpster.

Lynn Paltrow, who has spent her career as a lawyer trying to combat prosecution of pregnant women, said the charges were clearly contradictory. “How can you both have caused a pregnancy to terminate and given birth to a baby whom you neglect?” she asked.

The larger issue at stake is the “fetal homicide” laws across 37 states supposedly enacted to punish those who would attack a woman with the intent to make her lose her pregnancy. However, those laws are increasingly being used against the women themselves, with charges of murder brought up for things such as taking drugs or even falling down the stairs.

“What this prosecution makes clear is that not only is abortion being recriminalized in America, but that the women themselves — not just the people who perform abortions on them — can be arrested, investigated, prosecuted, and sent to jail for 20 or more years,” Paltrow said.

Sue Ellen Braunlin, the co-president of the Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice, said that even more concerning is the fact that these laws have been targeting women of color first.

“These rights are going to be taken away first from the margins — from people of color, people who are immigrants, people who they may perceive won’t have a lot of support from the jury, and people who are easy to ‘other,’” she said. “I think that these women were probably particularly targeted.”