Health Human Rights

Don’t get pregnant in Indiana

Purvi Patel gets 20 years for neglect and feticide.

“The first woman to be sentenced for killing a foetus has been handed a 20-year prison term for feticide and neglect of a dependent, despite claiming she gave birth to a stillborn baby.

Purvi Patel was bleeding heavily when she entered a hospital emergency room in Indiana in 2013 after giving birth unexpectedly in her bathroom.

She initially denied a pregnancy but later said she had a miscarriage and had disposed of the foetus by placing it in a plastic bag and then in a rubbish bin.

Prosecutors claimed the 33-year-old was 25 weeks pregnant at the time she gave birth, while activists said she was most likely to have been between 23 and 24 weeks pregnant, NBC News reports.

Her lawyers say Patel, who is from a conservative Hindu family, had concealed her pregnancy from her parents and panicked when she realised she was in labour. Patel lived with and cared for her parents and infirm grandparents in a house in South Bend, Indiana.”

Even though no trace of abortion-inducing drugs was found in her system, she was still convicted of feticide (or at least attempted feticide). Then, a 17th century ‘lung-float’ test was used to determine that the baby was born alive, therefore, she was also guilty of neglect of a dependent. Even though this test is unreliable

“It’s an absolutely discredited test,” said Gregory Davis, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Kentucky. “It boggles my mind that in the 21st century … this test is still being relied upon to determine whether a baby is born alive or dead.”

Davis is not the only forensic pathologist who believes the float test is unreliable. The most recent edition of Knight’s Forensic Pathology, a widely used textbook, says “there are too many recorded instances when control tests have shown that stillborn lungs may float and the lungs from undoubtedly live-born infants have sunk, to allow it to be used in testimony in a criminal trial.” The authors of another textbook, Essentials of Forensic Medicine, called the test “pointless” in 1984.

Davis, who is also the assistant state medical examiner for the commonwealth of Kentucky, said there are at least three reasons why a float test could yield inaccurate results, indicating the presence of air in the lungs even though the fetus never took a breath. The first is easiest to understand: If any attempt at resuscitation was made, either through mouth-to-mouth or chest compressions, that can introduce air into a lung, thus causing it to float even if the fetus was stillborn. The second has to do with decomposition: If the fetus has decomposed even a little bit, the lungs can fill with gas bubbles that would also result in the lung floating. Finally, Davis said, a fetus’s lungs can fill with air just by going through the vaginal canal, because pressure on the chest creates a “bellows effect.”

So, don’t get pregnant in Indiana. Or at least pray you don’t end up with any sort of complication that causes the eyes of the state to take a look. Like miscarriage. Or stillbirth. You know, events that are outside your control. Events that are pretty scary, emotionally and physically draining, that can leave a woman feeling low, weak and vulnerable.

“The British Pregnancy Advisory Service described Patel’s case as “tragic” and warned it could set a dangerous precedent for other pregnant women. A spokesperson told The Independent: “Purvi Patel is sadly the latest victim of the creeping criminalisation of pregnant women’s behaviour in America.

“These ‘feticide’ laws are being used to punish the pregnant women they purport to protect, and will only discourage those who need medical care from seeking help, putting women and their babies at greater risk.”

via @monaeltahawy