Saturday, October 16, 2021
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20 Years in Prison for Miscarriage?

The case of Purvi Patel and the Criminalisation of Pregnancy has got something to worry about. She was convicted for neglect of a dependent too and sentenced to 20 years in jail. The laws apply in a different way in US depending on the skin colour. Other Americans may get sentence but that is unperturbed compared to a black or brown for the same crime. Purvi Patel became the first person in US history sentenced to prison for feticide for what the state said was an attempt to end her own pregnancy. While, Patel says she had a miscarriage, delivering a stillborn feotus, prosecutors accused her of taking drugs to induce an abortion, even though, no drugs were found in her system. Her defence says, there was no evidence or trace of the said drugs in her body, but still court did not try to find out the reason behind her miscarriage. They also used a discredit test to claim the feotus was born alive. Nowhere court mentioned the duration of pregnancy, however, Patel told police that it was her 23rd week of pregnancy that got terminated on its own.

Ms. Patel comes from a family of Indian immigrants who settled in Granger, Indiana, a suburb of South Bend. In July 2013, she went to a hospital emergency room suffering from heavy vaginal bleeding. She denied that she had been pregnant, but eventually told doctors that she had miscarriage and placed the stillborn foetus in a bag and placed the bag in a dumpster. Abortion and foeticide is common in India but done in secrecy or to bias sex ratios. It is perhaps criminal act when an abortion is done to protect one’s honour or to bias sex. No woman should face criminal charges for having an abortion or experiencing a pregnancy loss, the cruel length of this sentence confirms that foeticide and other measures promoted by anti-abortion organisations are intended to punish not protect women.

If this woman has a psychological problem then whatever she has done should be overlooked. Abortion clinics should be a fundamental right and be available, but strangled by the Christian conservatives. If you claim to be a progressive society, you have to respect the rights of a woman in property, marriage, giving birth to young ones. So, the law should change as it clearly violates these rights. And the second thing is that, abortion should not be made illegal. Imagine a situation where a miscarriage happens unintentionally, as happens in many cases, then should law punish that woman? Or when a condition of a woman goes worse and abortion can save her life then you will punish her. Reproductive rights activists believe the sentencing of Patel, who lives in Indiana, highlights how U.S. prosecutors are misusing the laws protecting expecting mothers.

There can be number of reasons for such a choice. A woman might not be ready, may be her financial condition cannot afford the newly born or a partner does not take responsibility. Moreover, why she will suddenly remove her foetus on 23rd week? Ms. Patel’s defence attorney argued that the prosecution could not simultaneously accuse her of killing her unborn child and of abandoning a living one. But Indiana prosecutor Ken Cotter said that a person can be found guilty of foeticide even if the foetus survives and Judge Elizabeth Hurley ultimately rejected the defence’s argument. A jury found Ms. Patel guilty. At the sentencing, Ms. Hurley said that Ms. Patel was in a position to legally end her pregnancy, but opted for an illegal method, and later “ensured that baby’s death by placing him in the trash can with the other bathroom trash. Abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy is illegal even in India. However, we don’t care to report or take such issues seriously. Medical mafias are happy to help such female without reporting the case to police. Even if some doctors report it, then our ‘wonder fool’ take bribe and let them off. And the case end there itself before reaching the legal corridors.

The laws against abortion in the US are based on a literal reading of the Bible by Christian fanatics too. The fundamentalists view women as nothing more than bodies to bear children and to cook in kitchen and cleaning the households. In many ways, the anti-women laws in United States are amongst the most regressive in the world, when compared with others. In most of the cases, these laws deprive women of their basic rights. If you are living in the US, then live on both the coast where laws permit them to live as a free ‘human beings’ and absolutely avoid the states in the middle and the south where fundamentalists have stripped women of basic rights. Patel was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

To conclude here, my advice to all those Indians who visit or relocate to the United States, please live and bear with the rules prevailing in that country. Don’t take law in your hands. In such countries, you cannot buy any judges.

Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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