Since the 2010 midterm elections, when Republicans made massive gains across the country, hundreds of anti-choice bills have been introduced in state legislatures, and more of those bills have become law in that time than during the entire decade prior.
Purvi Patel’s 41-year sentence for contradictory charges is a glaring reminder of the fact that abortion’s legal status in the United States does not mean prosecutions for pregnancy loss can’t happen here.
Patel received a six-year sentence on the feticide charge, but that will be served concurrently with the 20-year sentence. She will spend five years on probation when she is released from prison.
Last winter, the family of Marlise Muñoz had to undergo the terrible ordeal of fighting the state for the ability to take their deceased daughter off mechanical support. Now, a conservative state representative says he plans to make those kinds of heartbreaking decisions even harder—or, perhaps, impossible.
Jurors deliberated for less than five hours before finding Purvi Patel guilty of both feticide and felony neglect of a dependent.
Although feticide laws were originally intended to protect pregnant women from violence, such statutes are now being used to punish them, sending the message that women who do not have healthy pregnancies may be investigated for criminal acts.
As ludicrous as Alabama’s law is, having lawyers for fetuses is not new—and they are not just appointed to try to stop girls from having abortions. In fact, they have been used for decades in state and judicial efforts to strip pregnant women of their civil and human rights.
The CDC suggested in a press release that women “of reproductive age”—pregnant or not—should face additional scrutiny when it comes to receiving prescription painkillers, simply because they are biologically capable of hosting a fetus.
The story of Purvi Patel’s prosecution, and the others lining up behind her, paint a bleak picture of life under the state’s ultra-conservative Republican reign and give a frightening look of what’s to come as increasingly draconian abortion restrictions force pregnant people to turn to other, sometimes illegal and often dangerous, means.
The El Salvador national legislature had the opportunity on January 16 to pardon a woman named Guadalupe, who was convicted of aggravated homicide against her newborn when, in fact, she had suffered obstetrical complications. Her petition fell one vote short of approval, but the story isn’t over.