Feticide Conviction Overturned, Work Continues to Free Purvi Patel
(Atlanta, GA) – Statement by Monica Simpson, Executive Director of SisterSong on Purvi Patel’s feticide conviction being vacated:
“In a week filled with anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric, women of color are celebrating today as news came out of Indiana that a Court of Appeals vacated Purvi Patel’s feticide conviction.
Purvi Patel showed up to a local hospital in the summer of 2013. She had excessive bleeding. There was speculation that she had attempted to self-induce an abortion. At a time when she deserved quality health care and support, she ended up being interrogated and criminalized.
She was eventually arrested, convicted of both feticide and neglect of a dependent, and sentenced to 20 years. Oral arguments were heard on her appeal in the fall of 2015. Today an appeals court vacated the felony conviction of feticide saying that the statute that was used to charge Patel was not meant to be used to prosecute women for their own abortion. This does not necessarily mean that Purvi will be released. The trial court was instructed to resentence her for the lesser charge of class D felony neglect of a dependent.
This is good news. This decision pushes back on the idea of criminalizing and punishing women who seek abortion. There is still work to be done as we continue to see women being investigated, prosecuted, convicted and jailed for behavior during or for the outcome of a pregnancy.
We have kept a close eye on this case. Too often, laws and cases like this one have a disparate impact on women of color. The only two women charged in Indiana for their pregnancy outcome were AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) women. When we look at states that have jailed or charged women based on behaviors, such as laws punishing women for using drugs during pregnancy it is low-income women and women of color who are caught up in this unjust dragnet.
No one should fear arrest or jail because they are pregnant, because they seek abortion, or because of a pregnancy outcome. And when women of color continue to struggle to access high quality health services, we should not put people in a position where they have to fear arrest or jail for seeking care.
Women of color are sick of people interfering with our right to control our bodies, to make our health decisions and to become parents when we are ready. It’s time to stop targeting women of color with myths, false stereotypes and harmful policies aimed at judging or limiting our reproductive decision-making.
Punishing and criminalizing women for their pregnancy outcomes does not result in better maternal, fetal or newborn health. Quite the contrary. Women of color do not need more barriers to healthy pregnancies. We do not need people interfering with our parenting decisions or taking away our bodily autonomy. We need a commitment to addressing maternal mortality among women of color. We need access to quality abortion care regardless of where we live or how much money we make. We need policies that support our health and our families. We need a criminal justice system that does not brutalize men and women of color and our families in the court room and on the streets.
Today we celebrate a move forward for the freedom and dignity of Purvi Patel and we commit to continuing to move for laws, policies and culture change that values women of color’s decisions, our families and our futures.”