SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Purvi Patel, the Indiana woman who was convicted of feticide after self-inducing an abortion in 2013, received a partial vindication last week when an appeals court threw out that charge. The court additionally reduced a second charge of neglecting a dependent.
The politically charged case, set in the home state of Republican Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence, is at a crossroads. It could face a quiet ending or be dragged out much further.
Because of the mixed results of the appeals court decision, both sides have 30 days from the July 22 ruling to decide whether to take the case to Indiana’s highest court. Under state rules, doing so would dissolve the appeals court decision, and could potentially restore the jury conviction of which Patel faces 20 years in prison as a result of. Patel has remained incarcerated since her March 2015 sentencing, and would not be eligible for bail in the meantime.
“It may be risky to appeal,” said Kathrine Jack, Indiana counsel for the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Patel’s behalf. “The Indiana Supreme Court could say the trial court was right. But some people would appeal because they wouldn’t want a felony charge on their record or as a matter of principle.”
If Patel does not appeal, she could be released from custody as early as this September. That is assuming she gets the maximum sentence under the charge the appeals court ordered.
If the state were to appeal that it has the right to charge with feticide women who end their pregnancies, the proceedings could reignite a national debate over prosecuting women under laws passed with the intent to protect them.
The three-judge panel ruled that Patel shouldn’t have been prosecuted under the state feticide law for trying to end her pregnancy. “We hold that the legislature did not intend for the feticide statute to apply to illegal abortions or to be used to prosecute women for their own abortions,” they wrote.
Her attorney, Stanford Law School professor Lawrence Marshall, said he and his client were still reviewing their options. A spokesman for the Indiana Attorney General’s Office said there was no new information about the state’s intentions beyond its statement issued on July 22.
“For the public, this case involves an emotional subject for many,” it read in part. “One of the strengths of our system of justice is that it affords the opportunity through an appeal to test whether a trial court’s proceedings were fair or not, and reverse or modify an incorrect decision or uphold a correct decision. In every appeal, both sides have the right to be heard; and we urge everyone to respect the roles of the investigators, prosecutor, trial court, jury and later the Court of Appeals when each were confronted with the tragic circumstances of this case.”
According to the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Patel was the first woman in the country to be convicted and sentenced under a state feticide law for having an unlawful abortion.