Monday, May 4, 2015

Purvi Patel: Indiana; Why her conviction (she becomes the first woman in the U.S. to be convicted of the crime of feticide) sets a dangerous legal precedent allowing a woman to be jailed for attempting to terminate her own pregnancy. And how the prosecution relied on a "pseudoscientific lung-float test" to secure the conviction. Chayu Babu; The Brooklyn Quarterly;

COMMENTARY: "The trials of Purvi Patel," by Chaya Babu, published by the Brooklyn Quarterly on May 1, 2015. (Chaya Babu is a Blog Editor for The Brooklyn Quarterly as well as a writer for India Abroad and a number of other publications. Her work focuses on social issues and culture, and you can check our her musings on brown, feministy, identity politics at The Fobby Snob.)

GIST: "Patel is the first woman in the U.S. to be convicted of the crime of feticide, which sets a dangerous legal precedent allowing a woman to be jailed for attempting to terminate her own pregnancy. That is a frankly terrifying prospect. What makes this particular instance even more troubling is how the case against Patel rests on dubious evidence, notwithstanding the legal complexities of Indiana’s feticide law. The methods by which the court determined that Patel had intended to abort her fetus as well as to prove that she delivered a living child are disturbing at best and amount to modern day witch hunt at worst. Lawrence Marshall, the Stanford Law Professor who will be taking on Patel’s case pro bono, says it cries out to be rectified. “There are issues here, there are errors here that were committed, that in our view justify and compel reversal,” he told the South Bend Tribune this week. “We will be hopefully showing the appellate court that errors were committed in both interpreting the law and how facts were allowed to be proven.”........ There are a slew of other sinister circumstances to what Patel has been forced to go through. The autopsy records show that her fetus was 23 to 24 weeks old, which Dr. Gunter said is considered at the cusp of viability. If Patel had given birth to a breathing baby, it’s likely that it was alive for just seconds, and had she delivered at a hospital, she would have had the legal right to decline resuscitative care. Moreover, the prosecution used the pseudoscientific lung-float test, a practice from the 17th century meant to measure oxygen levels in the respiratory system. Patel tried to perform CPR on the fetus, therefore invalidating the archaic test before it was even pursued. “The lung float test was disproven over 100 years ago as an indicator for live birth,” said Gregory J. Davis, assistant state medical examiner for Kentucky and a professor of pathology and lab medicine at the University of Kentucky, said in a New York Times interview. “It’s just not valid.” The prosecution also stated that Patel had cut her umbilical cord on her own as some sort of further proof that she was in a state to have acted other than how she did after her ordeal — although it’s unclear what the proper behavior is for a mother who just suffered a pregnancy loss. Gunter’s testimony further diminished the relevance of this detail, stating that umbilical cords at her stage of pregnancy are not very strong on their own and could have broken without intervention.........The St. Joseph Superior Court has ninety days to provide Patel’s lawyers with transcripts of her trial. They would then have thirty more days, with a possible additional thirty-day extension, to file a brief of their case with the Court of Appeals. Still, it could be over a year before the court decides whether the convictions should be overturned. Until then, Patel is sits in the St. Joseph County Jail waiting to be transported to an Indiana State Prison to begin serving twenty years behind bars."

The entire story can be found at:

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