Woman sentenced to 20 years in prison after claiming she had a miscarriage

Purvi Patel faced up to 70 years on charges of feticide and neglect, which relied on invalidated science

Published March 30, 2015 8:04PM (EDT)

Purvi Patel, the second woman to be prosecuted under Indiana's feticide law, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Monday, after being convicted of feticide and neglect of a dependent. The 33-year-old faced up to 70 years in prison for allegedly attempting to induce an abortion and giving birth to a live child, who prosecutors argued later died because of her neglect. Patel, however, has consistently maintained she had a miscarriage.

Critics of the case have highlighted the contradictions of the two charges, one of which requires that Patel's fetus to have been terminated, and the other that it have been born to suffer neglect. "It’s confusing why a prosecutor would be allowed to bring such contradictory charges," Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, told ThinkProgress. "How can you both have caused a pregnancy to terminate and given birth to a baby whom you neglect?"

Nonetheless, Patel was convicted on both counts last month, and received a 30-year prison sentence for the neglect conviction with ten years suspended, plus an overlapping 6-year sentence for the feticide charge. Reproductive rights advocates are decrying the sentence as extreme, and have continued to criticize the prosecution for using discredited scientific testimony to convince jurors that Patel's fetus was born alive.

“While no woman should face criminal charges for having an abortion or experiencing a pregnancy loss, the cruel length of this sentence confirms that feticide and other measures promoted by anti-abortion organizations are intended to punish not protect women," Paltrow said.

By Jenny Kutner

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