Attorneys: Indiana feticide conviction was absurd use of law

October 6, 2015

Attorneys for an Indiana woman seeking to overturn her conviction in the death of her premature baby have argued prosecutors relied on an absurd use of the state's feticide law.

Purvi Patel, 35, of Granger was sentenced to 20 years in prison in March. Prosecutors said she took drugs from China to end her pregnancy rather go through a medical abortion.

Her conviction drew criticism from some people who said the feticide law, which was originally billed as a way to protect pregnant women from violent attacks, could not be used to prosecute women for having legally questionable abortions, The South Bend Tribune reported.

Her lawyers, Lawrence Marshall of Stanford Law School and Joel Schumm of Indiana University, filed a brief with the Indiana Court of Appeals on Friday in which they argued that Indiana's feticide law was never intended to prosecute women who have illegal abortions. They pointed out that the state already has a law penalizing those who perform illegal abortions and that it has never permitted the prosecution of women who carry out their own abortions.

Authorities contend that Patel gave birth prematurely in July 2013, threw her baby in the trash in Mishawaka and lied to hospital staff. She was convicted on charges of neglect of a baby and feticide.

Her trial attorney said prosecutors never proved she took drugs to end the pregnancy. Her appeals attorneys wrote that prosecutors failed to prove Patel knew she had delivered a live baby or that she could have done anything to save the baby's life. They cited the testimony of a forensic pathologist who said the child likely would have bled out within a minute.

"Failure to take a futile act does not constitute endangerment," they wrote in the brief.

The Indiana attorney general's office says it will file a brief in response to Patel's attorneys in November. The appeals court will then decide if it will hold oral arguments.


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