Purvi Patel’s feticide and child neglect convictions — which led to her 20-year jail sentence for the death of her fetus — were overturned today by an Indiana appeals court. Patel had been convicted in the apparently contradictory charges of feticide (the death of an unborn fetus) and child neglect (death due to neglect of a live infant) after the death of her mid-term fetus in 2013. This blog has been following Patel’s story since the very beginning.
Patel’s charges stem from the loss of her fetus under circumstances Patel continues to maintain were an unintended miscarriage — which occurs as often as in approximately 10-20% of pregnancies. Prosecutors, however, argued that Patel had self-induced a chemical abortion. Their evidence? Text messages between Patel and a friend where Patel expressed interest in the purchase in abortion-inducing drugs; yet, there was no concrete evidence showing that Patel ever purchased those drugs, and no drugs were found in her bloodstream at the time of her fetus’ death.
Patel’s case has alarmed women’s rights activists since 2013, because it is symptomatic of how anti-choice activists have misapplied the law and other systems designed to protect women, and instead used them to criminalize pregnant women. Patel was arrested in the death of her fetus after her emergency room doctor called authorities when she was admitted for excessive hemorrhaging, and when he subsequently went out to search for incriminating evidence of an illegal abortion. Patel was charged with feticide using laws originally written with the intention of protecting battered women from physical abuse that leads to the loss of their fetus at the hands of their batterer; that law has been used twice by prosecutors in Indiana to persecute women — and in both cases, those women have been Asian American and/or immigrant women of colour. Patel’s mistreatment by our legal system undermines any possibility of trust between women — and specifically women of colour — and the medical or justice systems in this country.
43 years ago today, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision that would serve as an important foundation principle for the establishment of reproductive rights for women. In a 7-2 decision, the Justices ruled that the government had no right to interfere with a woman’s decision to seek (or not seek) an abortion for non-medical reasons; this choice, they declared, was protected by our constitutional right to privacy.
Since then, Roe v. Wade has had an incredible impact on women, enabling an unprecedented social, political and economic mobility for women in general.
Earlier this year, I named the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) one of my Giving Tuesday Top 5 organizations for their tireless advocacy around racial justice and women’s rights. NAPAWF has been at the forefront of many key issues relevant to the the AANHPI community, chief among them reproductive rights. For years, NAPAWF has engaged in a state-by-state fight to protect our reprodictive rights (which is of particular importance for the AANHPI community) in part by challenging conservative efforts to rollback abortion access with overtly race-baiting bans on abortions if doctors find that the procedure is sought for reasons such as fetal sex. Despite the lack of any evidence that women are seeking such abortions in any significant numbers, these restrictions are passed on the basis of stereotyping of Black, Asian and immigrant parents as immoral and sexist. Further, these racist laws have received scant commentary or criticism from mainstream media or center-aisle Democrats.
Two years ago, NAPAWF joined forces with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to file a lawsuit challenging one particularly vile and racist abortion ban in Arizona, which is noteworthy for its unusually explicit fear-mongering of Black and Asian women during debate that preceded passage of this as the first bill to ban race-selective abortion in addition to sex-selective abortion.
Hi, Hobby Lobby. It’s me, Jenn.
I heard you won a pretty big court case today, one that established your constitutional right as a corporate conglomerate-person to infringe on my rights as an actual person-person. I heard you congratulating yourselves in what you dubbed a major blow in defense of the free practice of your religion (centered around cheaper healthcare costs?) and free expression of your political beliefs (centered around being a jerk?), both of which apparently involve limiting the reproductive rights of the women who work for (within?) you.
Well, I have the freedom of expression, too. And, I think this decision is stupid.
Since 2001, Reappropriate has been the web's foremost Asian American activism, identity, feminism, and pop culture blog!