NEW YORK — Today, Purvi Patel was released from prison. Patel, an Indian American woman from Indiana, was incarcerated in 2015 when the state charged her with feticide and neglect of a dependent after she had a negative pregnancy outcome outside of a medical setting. Prosecutors during trial concentrated on her alleged use of medication abortion at home and questioned the ethnicity of the father of her pregnancy, making Patel the first woman in the country to be convicted of feticide for terminating, or attempting to terminate, her own pregnancy. The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum Executive Director Miriam Yeung released the following statement upon Patel’s release:
“The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum celebrates Purvi Patel’s release. A multiracial, multiethnic, multifaith coalition of local and national activists — especially South Asian American organizations, feminist, reproductive rights, health and justice groups, and a team of prescient attorneys — came together to #FreePurvi.
“Thousands of National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum activists from around the country have rallied, educated their community members, signed petitions, court-watched, and poured their heart and souls into our campaign to free Purvi Patel because each of us can see ourselves in her story.
“Purvi’s sentence was reduced from 20 years to 18 months over the course of her trial and appeal. Though Purvi is thankfully free today, we still believe that the ‘neglect of dependent’ charge against her should have also been overturned in her appeal, along with that of feticide. The State had no actual evidence of ‘neglect of a dependent,’ but instead used Purvi’s efforts to terminate her pregnancy and abortion stigma to win a conviction on that charge.
“Because Purvi has already served the amount of time required for her 18 month sentence for the unjust neglect charge, she was rightfully released today.
“Despite efforts by state prosecutors to punish Purvi Patel her for seeking an abortion, the court delivered a clear message that feticide laws are not meant to punish women for having abortions. Along the lines of well-settled legal principles and the intent of the Indiana General Assembly, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed that feticide laws should not be used to prosecute women for terminating, or attempting to terminate, their own pregnancies.
“Even though Purvi Patel is free, our work is not over. AAPI women, low-income women and all women are stigmatized for their abortion decisions. And our communities face numerous barriers in accessing health care and other essential rights. AAPI women’s reproductive decision-making continues to be highly scrutinized. By prosecuting Patel, the State has already discouraged women of color, particularly AAPI women and immigrant women, from seeking medical care based on fear of arrest and punishment. Patel has suffered a great injustice, and no other woman should be jailed for the outcome of her pregnancy.
“Purvi Patel should never have been jailed in the first place. We will not rest until we are assured that all women have the basic freedom and dignity to access the reproductive health care they need and deserve.”