Free Press Journal

Woman whose feticide conviction overturned to be released


FILE - In this March 30, 2015 file photo, Purvi Patel is taken into custody at the St. Joseph County Courthouse in South Bend, Ind., after being sentenced to 20 years in prison for feticide and neglect of a dependent. On Friday, July 22, 2016, the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned the conviction of Patel, who was found guilty of killing the premature infant she delivered after ingesting abortion-inducing drugs. However, the court upheld a lower-level felony neglect of a dependent conviction. (Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP, File)

South Bend: An Indian-American woman whose foeticide conviction for a self-induced abortion was overturned should be released from prison immediately, a judge said, after she was resentenced to less time than she already has served behind bars.

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In a brief ruling, St Joseph Superior Court Judge Elizabeth C Hurley also said a sentence of 18 months for Purvi Patel was appropriate for a felony charge of neglect of a dependent and that Patel does not have to be placed on parole.

Indiana Department of Corrections spokesman Isaac Randolph said late yesterday that officials were reviewing the situation and that Patel’s release from prison in the “immediate future is possible.”

Yesterday’s ruling comes less than two months after the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned Patel’s 2015 conviction and 20 year prison sentence  on a charge of killing her premature infant by taking abortion-inducing drugs, saying that the state’s law was not intended to be used “to prosecute women for their own abortions.”

The state’s attorney general decided not to appeal the ruling and let pass the deadline by which he had to ask the Indiana Supreme Court to take up the case.

Also Read: Indian-American woman’s sentencing sparks debate over laws

Patel was 32 when she was arrested in July 2013. She had sought treatment at a hospital for profuse bleeding after delivering a 1 ½-pound boy.

According to court records, Patel bought the abortion-inducing drugs online, took the drugs and then delivered the premature baby that died in the home she shared with her parents and grandparents in the community of Granger, northeast of South Bend. She then placed the body in a trash bin behind her family’s restaurant.

Women’s advocacy groups argued that Patel’s arrest marked the first time in Indiana that the state’s feticide law was used against a woman because of an alleged self-induced abortion, and Patel’s attorneys argued that the evidence prosecutors used didn’t apply to her alleged actions in a premature delivery. But attorneys for the state, who said that Patel was at least 25 weeks into her pregnancy, just beyond the threshold of viability, argued that the feticide law could apply to a pregnant woman and not just “third-party actors.”

The appeals court disagreed, saying that since the law was passed in 1979 it had only been used to prosecute those who attacked pregnant women.