When Purvi Patel showed up in the Indiana’s St. Joseph Regional Medical Center's maternity ward, bleeding and showing a protruding umbilical cord, Dr. Kelly McGuire knew something was wrong. “There should have been a baby at the end of the umbilical cord,” he testified, says the Washington Post. McGuire, who is obligated to report cases of suspected child abuse, called the police. Patel told doctors that she'd had a miscarriage and had left her stillborn fetus in a dumpster behind a shopping center. Patel was charged with child neglect, and later with killing her fetus, and on Monday she was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The verdict makes Patel the first woman in the U.S. to be charged, convicted and sentenced for “feticide” for ending her own pregnancy, says the group National Advocates for Pregnant Women. Though Patel said she had had a miscarriage, she was found guilty of taking illegal abortion drugs. The Indiana law under which Patel was convicted bans “knowingly or intentionally terminat[ing] a human pregnancy” with any intention other than producing a live birth, removing a dead fetus or performing a legal abortion. Patel's conviction has pro-choice activists alarmed that feticide laws, initially passed as a means of protecting pregnant women from providers of dangerous illegal abortions and other sources of harm, are now being used against them.