Indiana Woman Given 30-Year Prison Sentence Over Apparent Miscarriage


In February, 33-year-old Indiana resident Purvi Patel was found guilty of both feticide and child neglect after delivering a 24-week-old stillborn child at home and disposing of the body in a dumpster—an act that was discovered after she went to the hospital, bleeding, and the doctor discovered an umbilical cord.

Although the Indiana jury deliberated for less than five hours before delivering their verdict, the charges were obviously bizarre for a number of reasons, the most simple being that feticide and child neglect both hinge on the same question and cancel each other out: if Patel had killed her fetus (allegedly with abortion drugs purchased online) then there would be no child for her to criminally neglect; if the child was born alive and then violently neglected by way of disposal, it would be impossible for Patel to have committed feticide.

And, of course, the toxicologists never found any traces of abortion drugs in her body or in the fetus’s body, and police never found evidence that Patel actually bought the drugs she had alluded to via text messages to a friend. It seems that she simply had a miscarriage, at 24 weeks, which is barely on the edge of viable; however, to prove that the child was born alive and thus within medical rescue, the prosecutors used an arcane, discredited 17th-century test in which the fetus’s lungs are removed and put in liquid to see if they can float, and they floated. That was enough for Patel to be found guilty.

A local ABC affiliate, describing her as “the woman who dumped her newborn child in a dumpster,” reports that Patel was sentenced for the neglect of a dependent to 30 years in prison with 10 years suspended and 5 years probation; she was also sentenced to six years in prison for feticide, time she’ll serve concurrently with the other sentence.

According to PRI, 38 states currently have feticide laws on the books. Patel is the second woman from Indiana to face charges for feticide: the previous case also involved an immigrant woman, who in 2010 was charged after trying to poison herself while pregnant. In other states, the pregnant person’s behavior has been enough to bring up charges: the Guardian mentions Rennie Gibbs, a 15-year-old girl in Mississippi who had a miscarriage at 36 weeks and was charged with “depraved-heart murder” for being a cocaine user—even though her cocaine use didn’t directly cause the stillbirth.

Again via PRI, a hospital video of Patel’s initial interrogation reportedly goes like this:

“[The officer] asked about, ‘So who’s the father of this baby?'” Selm says. “[Patel] acted kind of embarrassed, like she didn’t want to talk about it. And he said, ‘Was it a one night stand or something? Oh, and was he Indian too?’ He kept going on about ‘was he Indian and where is he?'”

Patel has said, since, that she was in shock when she gave birth to the lifeless baby, and she didn’t know what to do.

Image via screengrab/WNDU

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