Indiana has been in the news a lot recently, and, other than the NCAA basketball tournament, none of it has been good.
First up is the conviction and sentencing of Purvi Patel, who suffered a miscarriage and was charged with feticide.
Patel was arrested in July of 2013 after she was admitted to an emergency room in Mishawaka, Indiana with heavy bleeding. After initially denying the pregnancy, Patel admitted that she had a miscarriage and put the stillborn fetus into a dumpster because she didn't know what to do. Despite the fact that a toxicology report found no evidence of drugs in her system, prosecutors charged Patel used abortifacient drugs that she purchased online to induce a miscarriage. They also used a discredited test to claim that she actually gave birth to a live fetus.
On March 30, Indiana sentenced Patel to 20 years in prison for feticide and neglect of a dependent. The neglect charges carried a 30-year sentence; 10 suspended. She is concurrently serving a six-year sentence for feticide. All told, she will serve up to 20 years in prison. According to Indiana law, a person can be guilty of feticide even if the fetus survives, as long as a deliberate attempt was made to terminate the pregnancy.
Patel is the first woman in the U.S. to be charged, convicted, and sentenced on feticide charges, but she isn’t the first woman to be charged under Indiana’s feticide laws. In 2011, Bei Bei Shuai was imprisoned for a year for feticide, but her charges were dropped as part of a plea deal. In late 2010, Shuai, who had been suffering from deep depression, attempted to commit suicide by drinking rat poisoning.
In other Indiana news – we’ve probably all heard that Indiana passed an infamous Religious Freedom Restoration Act in late March. And we’re probably all aware of the intense backlash as a result of the bill passing. Indiana’s RFRA bill should be of particular interest to us here in Maine because (as I’ve mentioned here before) Mainers are going to see a RFRA bill of our very own during this legislative session. In the past week, both the Bangor Daily News and the Portland Press Herald have published articles calling RFRA a bad idea for Maine. You can read those articles here, here, and here.