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April 6, 2015

New York Times Reports: "Purvi Patel Could Be Just the Beginning"

Last week, an Indiana judge sentenced Purvi Patel to 20 years in prison for what she has consistently maintained was a miscarriage, becoming the first woman in the United States to be convicted of the crime of feticide for supposedly attempting to self-induce an abortion. That charge alone carried a six-year prison sentence.

NAPW is working closely with allies including the Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice (IRCRC), National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF), and others to lend support to Ms. Patel and her family and to ensure that her conviction and sentence are overturned.

NAPW is also bringing attention to this terrible injustice, and what this case represents for all pregnant women. You can watch NAPW's Executive Director discuss the case on Democracy Now!, 20 Years in Prison for Miscarrying? The Case of Purvi Patel & the Criminalization of Pregnancy:

With NAPW's help, major news outlets, including the New York Times ("Purvi Patel Could Be Just the Beginning"), MSNBC ("How Indiana's pregnancy law targets women"), and The Guardian ("It isn't justice for Purvi Patel to serve 20 years in prison for an abortion") are getting it right.

In addition, with the help of RH Reality Check and the work of activists like Deepa Iyer and the organization Apna Ghar, more than 29,000 people have signed a petition condemning the prosecution, and over $20,000 has been raised for Ms. Patel's family. (Ms. Patel was the sole financial provider for her family and caretaker for her elderly grandparents).

But Ms. Patel's case is not the only one. Last week NAPW took action in an Arkansas case challenging the arrest, conviction, and sentence of yet another woman, Melissa McCann Arms. In 2013, Ms. Arms carried her pregnancy to term and gave birth to a son who is now 2 years-old and by all accounts healthy and well. While pregnant she had been struggling with a drug problem and also struggling to get appropriate treatment. Following the birth of her son, Ms. Arms was charged with the crime of "introducing a controlled substance into the body of another" (based on the prosecutor's claim that she "introduced" methamphetamine to her fetus by ingesting it while pregnant) and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. NAPW helped win review of her case in the Arkansas Supreme Court and last week filed an amicus brief on behalf of leading experts in maternal and child health and drug treatment in support of Ms. Arms.

NAPW is also helping state based activists oppose new legislation that would authorize arrests and convictions like these. Last week, NAPW urged the Arkansas Senate to reject a bill, passed by the Arkansas House, that would have amended the state's law designed, in part, to punish those who give date-rape drugs to women, to make it one that specifically authorizes the arrest of women like Ms. Arms. The bill died in committee, and NAPW was pleased to work with local allies to help defeat it.

Please help NAPW challenge the laws and prosecutions that are condemning pregnant women to prison, and ensure that no other women are subjected to the humiliation of arrest, trial, and decades behind bars for experiencing a pregnancy loss, having an abortion, or going to term.

NAPW Decries Purvi Patel's Sentence of 41 Years


First Conviction and Sentence for the Crime of Feticide
Because a Woman Sought to Terminate Her Own Pregnancy

South Bend, Indiana: Today, a St. Joseph County judge sentenced Purvi Patel to 41 years for the crimes of feticide and neglect of a dependent (Patel will serve 20 of the 41 years in prison). While Patel consistently maintained that she experienced a miscarriage, prosecutors claimed that she attempted to terminate her own pregnancy but gave birth to a baby who she then neglected and allowed to die. Today's sentence followed from the court's decision to allow Indiana's feticide law to be used as a mechanism for prosecuting women who attempt to terminate a pregnancy and from the prosecution's use of discredited and invalid scientific testimony to persuade the jury that the baby had been born alive.

National Advocates for Pregnant Women Executive Director Lynn Paltrow expressed deep disappointment at the extreme sentence: "While no woman should face criminal charges for having an abortion or experiencing a pregnancy loss, the cruel length of this sentence confirms that feticide and other measures promoted by anti-abortion organizations are intended to punish not protect women."

Ms. Patel is not the first woman in the U.S. to have been arrested and charged with a crime for terminating her own pregnancy or based on allegations that she had attempted to do so. This case, however, is the first time any woman has been charged, convicted, and sentenced for the crime of feticide for having attempted to end her own pregnancy.

NAPW has been working on this case from the beginning:

NAPW has been supporting local leaders and activists, including those at the Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice who have been attending Ms. Patel's trial and sentencing and communicating with her and her family to share our concern and support.

filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief on behalf of advocates for maternal, fetal & child health, and reproductive justice organizations, urging the trial court to dismiss the feticide charge against Ms. Patel. (The trial court denied Ms. Patel's motion to dismiss, and refused to accept the amicus brief from experts).

NAPW spoke out against the conviction: Purvi Patel Conviction Contradicts "Pro-Life" Claims of 'Protecting, Not Punishing' Women.

And NAPW is making sure the world knows what this prosecution, conviction, and extreme sentence means and the unprecedented violations of civil rights, human rights, and human decency it represents:

Lynn Paltrow, "How Indiana is Making it Possible to Jail Women for Having Abortions," Public Eye Magazine

Farah Diaz-Tello & Laura Huss, "It Is All Too Easy for Pregnant Women To Be Put on Trial in the United States," RH Reality Check


NAPW needs your support to help overturn this outrageous conviction and cruel sentence.

You can also contribute to the Purvi Patel Family Support Fund. (Apna Ghar, an organization that works across immigrant communities to end gender violence, started this fund to help Ms. Patel's family. Ms. Patel was the family's primary source of support and provided essential care for her aging grandparents.)

And you can call Indiana Governor Mike Pence, (317) 232-4567, and tell him that neither discrimination against L.G.B.T.Q. people nor punishment of pregnant women are acceptable.

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