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Purvi Patel fights for freedom

Purvi Patel, the Mishawaka woman who was convicted of feticide in 2015, for inducing an abortion and throwing a 25-week-old fetus in the trash behind her parent's restaurant, is trying to get her sentenced overturned.

She was originally sentenced to 30 years.

Attorneys for Patel argued in front of the Indiana Court of Appeals that the then 33-year-old was wrongfully convicted because the feticide law was meant to protect women from violent crimes while they were pregnant, not punish them for having an abortion.

The Indiana feticide law states that a person who knowingly or intentionally terminates a human pregnancy with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus commits feticide; the law does not apply to a (legal) abortion.

However, the state is standing behind its case. Deputy Attorney General for the State of Indiana, Ellen H. Meilaender argues that it was not just a fetus that Patel discarded of, but a live baby, and that in spite of Patel’s claims that she thought the fetus was dead, Patel knew the baby was alive.

Meilaender stated that “The jury could reasonably infer that someone who was holding a live baby in her hands” would be able to tell the baby was alive.

However, Patel’s attorney Lawrence Marshall, Professor at Stanford Law School, argued that viability was not an issue in feticide, because if it was then it would be so from the beginning of pregnancy.

“Were this court to hold that feticide applies, it would apply from the beginning of pregnancy, clinically diagnosed pregnancy,” said Marshall.

He went on to say that if feticide would apply then any woman who takes a morning-after pill, for example, would be guilty not just of unlawful abortion but of a level 3 felony.

The appeals court justices said they'd issue an opinion as soon as they possibly could.

According to the Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice, Patel is the first woman to be convicted in a state feticide case.

And that's not sitting well with some non-profits and women’s advocacy groups. Some are saying her conviction puts the reproductive rights of all women in question.

Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women says the law was created to protect women – not punish them.

“Thirty-eight states have feticide laws and they were all or virtually all passed in response to extreme violence against pregnant women,” stated Paltrow.

She went on to say that criminal laws have to be very clear. “They can't be ambiguous. You can't send somebody to jail based on a law that isn't clear,” remarks Paltrow.

The 35-year-old Patel is being held at an Indiana women's prison. Her earliest release date for the moment is March 25, 2025.

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