MISHAWAKA, Ind. — An Indiana woman who allegedly threw her newborn baby in the trash after giving birth was sentenced to 20 years behind bars on Monday, while being lectured by the presiding judge that she should have obtained an abortion.
Purvi Patel, 33, was arrested in 2013 after arriving at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Mishawaka with heavy bleeding and a umbilical cord hanging from her body. She initially denied being pregnant, but later told investigators that she had found out just three weeks prior that she was with child. Patel had been having an affair with a co-worker.
As her Hindu family is against premarital sex, Patel said that she panicked when she began to go into labor and left the baby in a dumpster behind a local shopping center because she “didn’t know what else to do.” She claimed that the baby was stillborn and that she had attempted to revive the child, although she later admitted that she didn’t want her parents to know that she had been having sex and became pregnant.
“[You didn’t want them to know] about the encounter, or about tonight?” a detective asked her.
“All of it,” she replied.
But prosecutors contended that the child, who is estimated to be between 25 to 30 weeks gestation, was born alive and that Patel left the baby to die. Attorneys also claimed that Patel had purchased abortion-inducing drugs in an effort to terminate her pregnancy as they had found text messages on her phone in which the woman allegedly told her friends that she was doing so.
While toxicology reports came up negative for drugs at the time of the investigation, Dr. Kelly McGuire, who examined Patel and the baby retrieved from the dumpster, told the court earlier this year that the baby could have survived following birth and a medical examiner testified that the baby passed a “floating test,” indicating that he or she could have been breathing following their birth.
In February, Patel was convicted with feticide under Indiana law, which states that “a person who knowingly or intentionally terminates a human pregnancy with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus commits feticide.” The law provides an exception for mothers who obtain an abortion. She was also found guilty of neglect for leaving the child in a dumpster to die.
On Monday, Patel was sentenced to 20 years behind bars for her crimes. St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Hurley lectured the woman that she should have obtained an abortion.
“You, Miss Patel, are an educated woman of considerable means. If you wished to terminate your pregnancy safely and legally, you could have done so,” she said. “You planned a course of action and took matters into your own hands and chose not to go to a doctor.”
But now, abortion advocates are rising up against the Indiana law—much like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act recently signed into law—and are claiming that it will be used against women who have miscarriages. Some are calling it “Indiana’s other outrageous law.”
“While no woman should face criminal charges for having an abortion or experiencing a pregnancy loss, the cruel length of this sentence confirms that feticide and other measures promoted by anti-abortion organizations are intended to punish not protect women,” National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) Executive Director Lynn Paltrow said in a statement.
Lila Rose of Live Action told reporters last year that she found the entire case to be ironic.
“If an abortionist had destroyed this defenseless little person at 28 weeks, there would be no controversy,” she said. “But since the baby managed to be born, to breathe, and then to be killed at the exact same age, law enforcement is scrambling to see justice served.”