woman's hands behind bars

Purvi Patel was sentenced to 20 years in prison for having a miscarriage

Today, Purvi Patel, the Indiana woman who was found guilty of feticide and neglect of a dependent last month, was sentenced to 20 years in prison

As we’ve covered, Patel was convicted of two contradictory charges — of both intentionally terminating her pregnancy and delivering a live fetus and abandoning it — neither of which was supported by evidence. The state had no proof that she took abortion pills and no proof that the fetus was born alive. She has consistently said that she had a miscarriage.

“What the Patel case demonstrates is that both women who have abortions and those who experience pregnancy loss may now be subject to investigation, arrest, public trial and incarceration,” Lynn Paltrow writes at Political Research Associates. “Pregnancy loss is not uncommon: some 15-20 percent of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage; one percent of pregnancies—approximately 26,000 each year—result in stillbirth. Following the Patel case, however, any miscarriage or stillbirth could be investigated as feticide (an “illegal” self-abortion).”

Paltrow also points out that this outcome undermines the anti-choice movement’s claim that they only want to see “abortionists,” not the people who get abortions, punished. For years, pretty much every major anti-abortion organization has wrapped their efforts up in the friendly rhetoric of “protecting women” and studiously avoided talking about what would inevitably happen if their goal — outlawing abortion — were actually realized.

Americans United for Life claims: “If Roe is overruled, no woman would be prosecuted for self-abortion. Priests for Life says the “pro-life position has always been that women are victimized by abortion. In fact, we have repeatedly rejected the suggestion that women should be put in jail.”

Right about now, as a woman prosecuted for self-abortion appeals a prison sentence of 20 fucking years, would be a great a time for all those anti-choicers who’ve claimed that they’d never in a million years want someone to actually go to jail for ending their pregnancy — who’ve claimed the mere suggestion is nothing more than a “standard diversion trick” by pro-choicers — to put their money where their mouth is. We’ll wait.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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