In July 2013, an Indiana woman named Purvi Patel sought treatment at a hospital emergency room for heavy vaginal bleeding, telling doctors she’d had a miscarriage. That set off a chain of events, which eventually led in February 2015 to a jury convicting Patel of one count of feticide and one count of felony neglect of a dependent. Patel was ordered in March to serve 20 years in prison for that conviction.
On Monday, attorneys for Patel will argue to the Indiana Court of Appeals that Patel’s conviction of feticide and felony neglect is contradictory, and thus should be overturned. Furthermore, they will say, it opens the door to wide-scale prosecution of pregnancy terminations in the state.
Patel’s attorneys argued during her trial that she experienced a miscarriage and was in shock following the event. Prosecutors, meanwhile, argued that Patel took drugs to induce an unlawful of abortion, but that instead of miscarrying, Patel delivered a live fetus that she abandoned.
To support the charge of feticide, the state at trial was required to prove Patel both “knowingly or intentionally” terminated her pregnancy “with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus.” To support the charge of felony neglect at trial, prosecutors needed to show that Patel took abortifacients; that she delivered a viable fetus; that said viable fetus was, in fact, born alive; and that Patel abandoned the fetus.
In their appeal, attorneys for Patel will argue that over the course of the seven-day trial, attorneys for the state failed to introduce any evidence that Patel ingested the drugs the prosecution claimed she ordered. They note that the state’s own pathologist admitted during trial that he tested for but found no evidence of abortifacients in Patel’s system. Patel’s attorneys also will argue witnesses throughout the trial offered contradictory conclusions on the gestational age of Patel’s fetus. All, Patel’s attorneys argue, are grounds to reverse her conviction.
Indiana jurors deliberated for less than five hours before finding Patel guilty on both counts.
A decision from the Indiana Court of Appeals following Monday’s oral argument is not expected for months.