Purvi Patel, a 33 year-old woman from Indiana has been sentenced to twenty years for nothing more than having a miscarriage of an unwanted pregnancy and seeking medical attention.
The facts of the case don’t even make sense. Patel was charged for two crimes – killing a fetus, and neglecting a living child. These supposed crimes contradict one another. In order to be charged with killing a fetus, the fetus must be delivered dead. In order to be charged with neglect, the fetus must be delivered alive. The jury deliberated for only five hours before deciding that Patel would get 20 years in jail.
What led to this horrible sentencing? First off, Patel’s pregnancy was unexpected and unwanted. Patel, who is Indian-American, lived in a very conservative Hindu household and feared telling her parents who expected her not to be sexually active until after she was married.
But also, Patel got pregnant in Indiana, where many laws have been passed making it very difficult to get an abortion. After twenty weeks of pregnancy, abortion is illegal in Indiana, and the only access many women have to an abortion require them to travel hundreds of miles to another state, miss work, pay for housing and the expensive procedure.
And Indiana is not the exception. In just the last four years, states across the country have enacted over 230 new abortion restrictions. Some of these restrictions in Indiana include requiring an ultrasound and encouraging pregnant women to see the image of the fetus before the abortion; forcing pregnant women to receive anti-abortion counseling followed by waiting at least 18 hours before having the procedure; requiring parental approval in order for minors to have an abortion, and many new restrictions on public and private insurance that restrict abortion access. As a result of all these restrictions, 93 percent of all counties in Indiana don’t have a single abortion provider.
Around week 25, Patel’s pregnancy ended unexpectedly, with labor and stillbirth, and she went to the hospital immediately. It was there that Dr. Kelly Maguire, a known anti-abortion doctor, didn’t believe her and had her held for questioning by the police. And now Patel has been sentenced to twenty years in jail for having a miscarriage.
We shouldn’t be fooled into thinking this case has anything to do with justice or protecting anyone. Patel was seen as an easy target likely because she’s a woman from an immigrant family without a lot of money and unlikely to afford expensive legal representation. And now her case is being used by politicians to further terrorize women everywhere. In Indiana, or any other state with limited access to abortion, the politicians want women seeking medical care to think twice about having an abortion and not become the next Purvi Patel.
We should not accept these attacks and blatant intimidation of women. Women should have full rights to decide whether to have a child or not, and should receive all necessary medical care.