PRESS RELEASE: Advocates for Maternal & Fetal Health, Reproductive Justice, File Brief Urging Court to Dismiss Feticide Charge Against Indiana Woman

PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 17, 2014

Contacts: Kathrine Jack JD, (317) 477-2300, kathrinejack@gmail.com
Sara Ainsworth JD, (212) 255-9252, sla@advocatesforpregnantwomen.org

(South Bend, IN) On Friday, December 19th, an Indiana trial court will hold a hearing on criminal charges brought against Purvi Patel, an Indiana woman. National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), along with numerous maternal health and bioethics experts and reproductive justice organizations, filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief urging the St. Joseph County Superior Court to dismiss the feticide charge against Purvi Patel. At the hearing Friday, the trial court is expected to decide whether it will consider that brief.

Prosecutors have charged Ms. Patel with two contradictory charges. They claim that she gave birth to a newborn and then neglected the infant charging Ms. Patel with “neglect of a dependent.” Simultaneously, they claim that she intentionally terminated her pregnancy, charging her with the crime of “feticide.” Both crimes are felonies that are punishable by between six and 20 years in prison.

None of the individuals or groups that joined this brief object to the “neglect of a dependent” charge if, in fact, a baby was born alive and was neglected. But as the brief explains, it does not appear from the facts available that this is what this case is about. Rather, the state seeks to use its feticide law to prosecute a woman who either (from the state’s account) self-induced an abortion or (from her accounts reported in the press) suffered a stillbirth.

Indiana’s feticide law was passed with the promise that it would protect pregnant women. This case raises the important question of whether the real purpose of a feticide law is to jail women who have abortions.

Kathrine Jack, counsel for NAPW, the Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice (IRCRC), and other groups represented in this brief, said that “Indiana prosecutors should not use the feticide law, intended to protect pregnant women, to put women who have abortions in jail.”

Rev. Marie Siroky of IRCRC emphasizes, "As people of faith we are called to respond when the laws of the State are applied unjustly. To apply feticide and criminal charges to women who are pregnant, without thorough evaluation of the situation, does not serve in the interest of justice, but intimidates women with incarceration and prevents them from seeking medical care when a pregnancy may have a less-than-optimal result. Instead of compassion, they receive criminal charges.”

“Countries where abortion is criminal have paid a heavy price in terms of maternal, infant, and child health and well-being,” explains Sara Ainsworth, Director of Legal Advocacy at NAPW. “Indiana should not join these countries where young pregnant girls are committing suicide at alarming rates; pregnant women are avoiding medical care for fear that any problem in pregnancy will be reported to law enforcement; and mothers are not only going to jail for having abortions, but also for suffering miscarriages and stillbirths.”

Activists and advocates across the country are coming together to oppose this prosecution by signing a petition that demands the St. Joseph County Prosecutor dismiss the charge of “feticide” against Purvi Patel. The brief with a full list of amici is available here.

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