On Friday (July 22) an Indiana Court of Appeals overturned Purvi Patel’s feticide conviction. Patel is currently serving 20 years after allegedly self-inducing an abortion and discarding the fetal remains. She was convicted on two counts: feticide and neglect of a dependent.
The crux of the case is the use of a feticide law in a judgment against a pregnant woman. Feticide laws, which exist in some form or another in 38 states, were passed as a mechanism for increasing penalties against people who harm pregnant women, particularly in domestic violence situations. Patel’s conviction under this law was setting up a potentially frightening precedent of using them instead to criminalize pregnant women for the outcome of their pregnancies.
The Indiana Court of Appeals decidedly came out against this use of the law in their decision:
As for the feticide conviction, we hold that the legislature did not intend for the feticide statute to apply to illegal abortions or to be used to prosecute women for their own abortions. Therefore, we vacate Patel’s feticide conviction.
But Patel remains in jail, awaiting a resentencing on the neglect of a dependent conviction that was downgraded but upheld by the court of appeals:
As for the neglect conviction, we hold that the State presented sufficient evidence for a jury to find that Patel was subjectively aware that the baby was born alive and that she knowingly endangered the baby by failing to provide medical care, but that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the baby would not have died but for Patel’s failure to provide medical care. Therefore, we vacate Patel’s class A felony conviction and remand to the trial court with instructions to enter judgment of conviction for class D felony neglect of a dependent and resentence her accordingly.
This decision is good news, as it provides a legal precedent against the misuse of feticide laws in charging pregnant women. It’s also important to note that that racial and cultural bias against Asian communities may have played a role in Patel’s conviction and in other similar cases. Patel has already served one year and four months of her sentence. Her new charge of class D felony neglect could result in up to three years total of prison time.