Purvi Patel

Purvi Patel, who is serving time for aborting her six-month fetus in 2013 and disposing of it in a dumpster where she worked, could be released from prison next month. The Indian American woman must still be resentenced for willful neglect of a minor. (file photo)

The State of Indiana will not appeal the overturning of the conviction against Purvi Patel, an Indiana woman who is currently serving time for aborting her six-month fetus in 2013 and disposing of it in a dumpster.

In 2015, Patel, an Indian American, was found guilty of feticide, and, conversely, willful neglect of a minor. She received a 20-year prison sentence on both convictions. The Indiana State Court of Appeals overturned the feticide conviction against Patel on July 22, and reduced the charge of neglect from a Class B felony to a Class D.

The state had 30 days to appeal the ruling and to ask the Indiana Supreme Court to take up the matter. A day after the deadline passed Aug. 22, the Indiana State Attorney General’s office released a statement saying it would not continue to pursue the matter as it “not be productive.”

"All those confronted here with very difficult and emotional facts — including the police investigators, prosecutors, trial court and jurors — are to be commended," said Indiana State Attorney General Greg Zoeller. “We believe justice has been served.”

Patel must still be resentenced for willful neglect of a minor. The maximum sentence for that charge is three years. Patel has already served 17 months in prison, and could thus likely be released by the end of September.

The 35-year-old has not named the man she was involved with at the time she got pregnant, but court records indicate it was a man she worked with at Moe’s Southwest Grill, owned by her parents. During the trial, Patel’s best friend told the jury that Purvi had tried to abort the baby, because she feared her parents would find out and harm her as well as her boyfriend, identified only by his nickname Homer.

The three-panel appeals court noted in July that state laws regarding feticide were never meant to be used against pregnant women who induce their own abortions, but were designed to be used against those who attacked pregnant women.

Women's advocacy groups said the case marked the first time a state feticide law was used against a woman because of an alleged self-induced abortion. Similar laws are in place in 38 states.

Several pro-choice organizations and Indian American civil rights organizations, including South Asian Americans Leading Together and Chicago, Illinois-based Apna Ghar, filed an amicus brief in support of Patel during the appeal process.

Neha Gill, executive director of Apna Ghar, told India-West in an interview last month that Patel’s conviction was “a concerted attack on women and women’s bodies. Our systems and institutions work against women.”

Gill said it was “outrageous” that Patel was charged with both feticide and criminal neglect of a minor. “The charge of feticide would imply that the fetus was killed, but then criminal neglect of a minor implies a live baby,” she said.

Patel was represented by Stanford University law Professor Lawrence Marshall.

“I’m very pleased the state didn’t drag things out just for the sake of dragging things out,” Marshall told the Associated Press.

"I hope now that we'll get to a point where Purvi will be able to put this nightmare behind her and hopefully get on with her life," he said.

In a statement, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum said it was pleased that Indiana had decided not to appeal the Court of Appeals decision.

“In choosing not to appeal the decision, the state has taken a step in the right direction,” said Leng Leng Chancey, NAPAWF’s deputy director of systems and sustainability. “Yet, we are still concerned by the court’s reluctance to fully overturn the charge of neglect of a dependent against Patel, a conviction that continues to be an egregious injustice.”

“Purvi Patel and all women deserve to make their own reproductive decisions without fear of scrutiny or worse,” she said.

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