A Handmaid's Tale
March 31, 2015 5:53 PM   Subscribe

On Monday, a judge in the State of Indiana sentenced a young woman to twenty years in prison for the crime of having an unauthorized miscarriage.

Purvi Patel, 33, was charged with two -- apparently contradictory -- crimes: "knowingly or intentionally terminat[ing] a human pregnancy with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus..." and, for not properly caring for the fetus once it had been expelled from her body (felony child neglect).

Prosecutors maintained that Ms. Patel had ordered illegal abortion drugs from overseas and thus knowingly attempted to terminate her pregnancy. They also maintain that the fetus was alive at the time of birth, leading to charges of felony child neglect.

Ms. Patel disputed all of the charges, her lawyers stating that the fetus was already dead when it was expelled from her body, and that she did not order any illegal abortion drugs (no evidence of these drugs was ever found, and no evidence of their existence was ever presented in court).

38 states currently have laws against "feticide", while Indiana has recently passed a new law mandating that hospitals offer the option of proper burials for even non-viable fetuses.

Previously: The State of Alabama appoints lawyers for fetuses
Previously: Your Body is Now a Crime Scene
Previously: The Rise of DIY Abortion in Texas
posted by Avenger (332 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
Proving once again that the only Sharia law we need to worry about in the good ole US of A is from Christians.
posted by nevercalm at 5:56 PM on March 31, 2015 [154 favorites]


The specific Indiana code, for those who are interested: Criminal Code Sec. 35-42-1-6.
posted by Avenger at 5:56 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dear Indiana,

I just can't with you right now. Please stop.
posted by sparklemotion at 5:59 PM on March 31, 2015 [39 favorites]


The "hospitals offering burials" thing doesn't seem germane to the issue of reproductive choice. It actually seems like kind of a good idea for those whose pregnancies end accidentally and who need to grieve.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:00 PM on March 31, 2015 [20 favorites]


The takeaway here is that if you do have a miscarriage, you might want to risk dying from bleeding a lot at home so you don't have to go to jail for 20 years. Or if you go to the hospital, make sure anything you expelled has been disposed of properly and never, ever tell anyone where it is. Play dumb.

Oh wait, no, the takeaway is that this is bullshit.
posted by emjaybee at 6:00 PM on March 31, 2015 [94 favorites]


GREATEST COUNTRY ON EARTH
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:03 PM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Indiana: Taking the lead among states that have turned into Tea-ocracies.
posted by NorthernLite at 6:05 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


My dad was from Indiana.

Thank you, dad, for joining the army in your teens, living overseas for 18.5 years and retiring in Georgia where I was born and raised.

R.I.P.
posted by Michele in California at 6:11 PM on March 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


what the fuck is wrong with this moron garbage country
posted by poffin boffin at 6:11 PM on March 31, 2015 [140 favorites]


don't answer that, i know it's the shitty christians that even jesus would hate
posted by poffin boffin at 6:11 PM on March 31, 2015 [45 favorites]


My Dad was from Indiana too, but moved to Florida when he was young. (At this point I'm not sure that's an improvement.)
posted by Foosnark at 6:12 PM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


jfc.

That poor woman.
posted by Space Kitty at 6:14 PM on March 31, 2015 [12 favorites]


I wish some of the (justified) big business outrage over the Indiana version of RFRA would spill over into the area of reproductive rights. I'll be waiting a while, I'm sure.

Hell, as a straight woman, I wouldn't have felt safe spending much time in some of these states when I was pregnant. 20 years ago, maybe, but not now.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 6:14 PM on March 31, 2015 [12 favorites]


Indiana is, in my experience, a particularly awful state filled with many horrible people, but the move towards criminalizing pregnant women is nationwide.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:16 PM on March 31, 2015 [13 favorites]


This case is just heartbreaking on so many levels. Personally, for Ms. Patel, both her pregnancy and her miscarriage, but on a cultural social level, what we have allowed the NeoChristians to do in the last two decades is terrifying and we should be terrified.

When I wrote my dissertation on postmortem prenatal ventilation, it was an outlier medical event, now it's common protocol at every Christian-based hospital, despite the fact that there are massive ethical problems, and there has not yet been a successful long term ventilation that has produced anything except million dollar bills from said hospitals. It's the law in most of the Deep South.

30 years ago, when I took my place as a clinic walker, facing off against anti-abortion terrorists who would hit us and spit on us and pull our hair, there were about 15 clinics in the DFW area that we would protect, rolling around matching the terrorists schedules.

Now there are like 5 clinics in the entire state of Texas. There's waiting periods. There's parental consent, and there's the mandatory rape with an 8" vaginal ultrasound. None of which are medically necessary, but only exist to shame the sluts.

I've had posts here deleted about abortion, and the creeping rise of the neochristians who would ban it and birth control...but the fact is that while we're tying to be polite and nonconfrontational and putting our message in bright and happy colors, we're getting destroyed.

The Puritans are winning. They are winning big. We ignore them at our own peril.
posted by dejah420 at 6:21 PM on March 31, 2015 [293 favorites]


Looks like a group called Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice is helping Patel. Donate link here.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 6:21 PM on March 31, 2015 [28 favorites]


Good lord. The discussion in the 'maintained' link of the "lung float test" used by a prosecution witness to determine the fetus was alive at birth is horrifying.
posted by mediareport at 6:23 PM on March 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


I am horrified that she was even prosecuted. WTF.
posted by futz at 6:25 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am glad she is lawyered up, and I hope this bullshit gets wheelbarrowed right up to the SCOTUS, because enough of this neo-medieval insanity already. These idiots will get ignored right into dragging everyone with them into abyss, and it has to stop.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:25 PM on March 31, 2015 [11 favorites]


Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane: "I hope this bullshit gets wheelbarrowed right up to the SCOTUS,"

The other side is hoping for the same thing, just fyi. They think they can win with the current court, and they may be right. Witness Hobby Lobby.
posted by dejah420 at 6:27 PM on March 31, 2015 [11 favorites]


What possible reason would anyone have for thinking the SCOTUS would be anything but delighted with this?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:28 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Has anyone checked whether there's maybe some big gas leak in Indiana?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:29 PM on March 31, 2015 [19 favorites]


Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice

They should think about a new name, because at the sole mention of the coalition's name in the first link, I assumed it was an anti-choice group. It sounds like one of those organizations named to sound ambiguous (or even progressive) when they're really up to some awful shit, like Americans for Prosperity or Students for Academic Freedom.
posted by axiom at 6:29 PM on March 31, 2015 [6 favorites]




What's The Matter With Kansas Indiana so much of America?
posted by uosuaq at 6:32 PM on March 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


This is an April fools thing, right?
posted by From Bklyn at 6:33 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


From the link about drugs:

Prosecutors based the feticide charge on text messages police found on Patel’s phone. They say the messages show she talked to a friend about buying abortion drugs online. But the toxicologist didn’t find any trace of those drugs in her body or in the fetus’ body. And police found no evidence that she actually purchased the drugs.
posted by mediareport at 6:34 PM on March 31, 2015 [15 favorites]


Seriously, what the fucking fuck? I have nothing but WTF, Indiana.
posted by rodlymight at 6:34 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can we not make "april fools, right" un-jokes about something that is terrifingly real for some women - including some women HERE?

If I - well, probably if I wasn't white - this could've been me. 20 years ago I lost a baby at 20-something weeks, I hadn't wanted the pregnancy, and I hadn't taken care of myself and I HAD investigated abortion. There but for the grace of my white-ass skin go I, nobody arrested me when I miscarried in my bathroom and ended up in the ER because I couldn't stop bleeding.

This is reality for women, especially young women. It's not a joke.
posted by FritoKAL at 6:35 PM on March 31, 2015 [70 favorites]


Re changes in laws; here's my (deleted) post from 2014 about the number of abortion providers in Texas dropping to 8. Since that post, the number has dropped to 5. (I'm not sure what restless nomad meant by it being badly framed, so apologies if it offends.)

There are currently women dying in in this country because they can't get to a provider. Abortion medicine is being sold at flea markets, often to people who can't read or understand the directions. The clinics that were available to help those women are gone. This country has dipped below the 3rd world when it comes to women's health care, but you don't see any corporations threatening any boycotts about that shit.
posted by dejah420 at 6:39 PM on March 31, 2015 [40 favorites]


I am horrified that she was even prosecuted. WTF.

I have never heard of this particular case before, but would nonetheless bet some money that the prosecutor is building a resume for some major political ambition. Like the Aaron Swartz case: sometimes you get these seemingly insane overprosecutions on politically charged issues for venally self-serving reasons, as well as institutional political ones. Another broad issue (apart from reproductive freedom) is how to stop having a legal-political system where there's a viable job category of "budding Torquemada" for the pathologically ambitious and morally vacuous to aspire to.
posted by RogerB at 6:41 PM on March 31, 2015 [9 favorites]


It surprises me not at all to find that Indiana judges are selected in a partisan election process.

It's a fascinating question to ask how much the need to safeguard one's electoral chances might contribute to the sentencing decision from the judge, but of course we'll never know the answer to that.
posted by Nerd of the North at 6:42 PM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Per their web site, National Advocates for Pregnant Women filed an amicus brief for Patel's defense and will continue to support her case. I just donated.

Scary: Massachusetts has a feticide law.

#YesAllWomen
posted by Sheydem-tants at 6:45 PM on March 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


I was discussing A Handmaid's Tale today with a guy friend who said it was too preachy. I said it terrified me and this was exactly the example I cited.
posted by chatongriffes at 6:46 PM on March 31, 2015 [27 favorites]


This country has dipped below the 3rd world when it comes to women's health care

I saw this map a few weeks back. It indicates that America is one of only 8 countries in the world (of 188 countries with known policies) with zero maternity leave. All the other countries lacking maternity leave entirely are miniscule countries who just may not have the resources (or who may take care of moms some other way -- something we just don't do these days it seems).

I need to log off now, but I am wondering in all seriousness what can be done (other than me and others here expressing our shock, outrage, disgust and so forth here in this thread). I mean, I don't expect to have more children, but this is just not the kind of world I want to live in.
posted by Michele in California at 6:48 PM on March 31, 2015 [9 favorites]


I've pointed out before that the motto on the Welcome to Indiana highway signs -- "Crossroads of America" -- means that Indiana is proud of being in the way of where you really want to go. I didn't realize that they were so proud of it along political dimensions as well.
posted by Etrigan at 6:48 PM on March 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


More data points and anecdotes:

Seven Appalling Instances Where Pregnant Women Were Criminalized

Guttmacher: By 2011, more than half of women of reproductive age lived in states hostile to family planning. (And this was before the massive push by the pro-birth crowd in 2013 and 2014.) It's way worse now.

And damned if I know what to do to stop this juggernaut.
posted by dejah420 at 6:51 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Prosecutors based the feticide charge on text messages police found on Patel’s phone. They say the messages show she talked to a friend about buying abortion drugs online. But the toxicologist didn’t find any trace of those drugs in her body or in the fetus’ body. And police found no evidence that she actually purchased the drugs.

And there was probable cause to look through her phone why? Because she miscarried?
posted by zachlipton at 6:51 PM on March 31, 2015 [16 favorites]


I am a practicing Christian. I believe in the right to choose. We are out here. We are not all extremists.
posted by harrietthespy at 6:53 PM on March 31, 2015 [27 favorites]


What a bizarre case. Even putting aside if you think the laws are justified or not, to my view there just does not appear to be even remotely enough evidence to convict on a reasonable doubt standard for either charge. They can't prove she took the drugs, they can't prove the baby was alive. It appears to be entirely conjecture and a jury that just believed what they wanted to believe.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:55 PM on March 31, 2015 [12 favorites]


Probable cause is a euro-commie concept. You should know that.

I mean, unless you're not sufficiently churched or something. You are churched, right?
posted by aramaic at 6:55 PM on March 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


Indiana: We're more than just one kind of horrible!
posted by duffell at 6:55 PM on March 31, 2015 [8 favorites]


Indiana wants me
Lord I can't go back there
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:57 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I read some about this case back when the verdict was announced, and one thing I haven't seen explained is what did she say at the hospital to set this all off? Did the doctors take one look at a woman seeking treatment after a miscarriage and immediately call the police? Or what did she tell them?
posted by zachlipton at 7:00 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


She came into the hospital bleeding but initially denied that she had ever been pregnant. She was, I believe, hiding the pregnancy: she lived with her very conservative parents and had been having an affair behind their backs. The emergency room staff realized that she had miscarried, called the police, and then found the miscarried fetus, at which point they decided that she was a fetal murderer and not just someone who had miscarried and freaked out.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:05 PM on March 31, 2015 [15 favorites]


This isn't Indiana's first time at this rodeo either. In 2011, Indiana prosecuted Bei Bei Shuai, a Chinese immigrant who tried to commit suicide while pregnant.

And like I said before, Indiana isn't alone in this. 38 states have laws like this on the books that can be turned against women.
posted by dejah420 at 7:15 PM on March 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


Ok I found a little more information (from one of the OP's links, natch), emphasis mine:
At first, Patel did not tell doctors that she had been pregnant. The doctor who first examined Patel declined to be interviewed for this story. But her colleague, Dr. Kelly McGuire, says after examining Patel, he knew something was seriously wrong. Patel still had a placenta inside her womb attached to a severed umbilical cord. “That looked like it was from a baby that was fairly far along,” McGuire says.

Like all physicians, McGuire is a “mandated reporter” of child abuse, meaning that if he suspects any form of abuse, he’s required to notify authorities. He determined Patel’s address and called police, who went to her home to look for a newborn baby.

When McGuire told Patel that police were headed to her home, she confessed to leaving the fetus. The doctor updated the police, and then did something no mandated reporter is required to do: He joined them. From the hospital windows, he could see police cars converging on the shopping center, which was not far off.

“It was actually a very surreal moment,” he recalls. “I decided there was nothing more for me to do at the hospital, so I would actually go over to the Target store myself as well. Maybe I could help in some way.”
What the actual? The doctor left the hospital so he could go play detective personally?
posted by zachlipton at 7:15 PM on March 31, 2015 [35 favorites]


Yeah, you have to wonder about his...eagerness to join the hunt for a miscarried fetus.
posted by emjaybee at 7:18 PM on March 31, 2015 [12 favorites]


Well, Dr. McGuire is a proud member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, so he's presumably more concerned about the fetus than about the sentient incubator that once surrounded it.

He's also a graduate of the Citadel, which would definitely not give me a lot of confidence in my ob-gyn, but maybe that's just my prejudice.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:22 PM on March 31, 2015 [54 favorites]


This happened in the town next to me. I've heard a lot of talk about it in town, there's a lot of racial tinge to it.

I need to get the fuck out of this dump of a state.
posted by Ferreous at 7:23 PM on March 31, 2015 [11 favorites]


I wish I could avoid states like this without seriously harming my career. I'm not safe in them.

I'm going to echo what someone else said upthread: I wish some of the boycotts and outrage could happen for issues of women's equality, too. I don't have the power to boycott alone.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:25 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


It is particularly horrible that a twenty year conviction means that they are likely depriving her of the ability to ever have a biological child.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:25 PM on March 31, 2015 [9 favorites]


Well, Dr. McGuire is a proud member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, so he's presumably more concerned about the fetus than about the sentient incubator that once surrounded it.

And men wonder why women distrust, dislike and dread going to the doctor.
posted by winna at 7:28 PM on March 31, 2015 [67 favorites]


the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists

I am fucking disgusted and horrified that there is no method by which potential patients can search a database to make sure they can avoid being subjected to these asshole's prejudices. It fucking sickens me to think of vulnerable women of any age being fed the grotesque lies on that shitty group's homepage, much less having any of them be the primary maternal health doctor of any human being.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:32 PM on March 31, 2015 [80 favorites]


Can't read any more. Equal parts anger and sadness are overwhelming my brain. So fucking powerless.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 7:34 PM on March 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Like honestly if I walked into two gynecologist's offices side by side and one had a membership plaque in an antichoice organization on the wall and the other had a bookshelf with only Tucker Max books on it I would go for the date rape enthusiast and feel like I lucked out.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:34 PM on March 31, 2015 [49 favorites]


I fucking hate people so much right now I am almost incoherent with rage. Please, asteroid, hurry up.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 7:37 PM on March 31, 2015 [14 favorites]


Sheydem-tants: "Scary: Massachusetts has a feticide law."

Most states have some form of "feticide" law which is typically used to prosecute domestic violence perpetrators who beat their girlfriends/wives into losing the baby, or back-alley abortion providers who are not licensed by the state. Almost all of them -- including Indiana's -- exempt legal abortion providers from the statute. More progressive states often have more aggressive fetal homicide laws, to provide more protection for domestic violence victims. The statutes gained in popularity after Laci Peterson's murder, when Scott Peterson was prosecuted under California's fetal homicide law for the death of the baby she was pregnant with.

(I personally prefer "aggravated assault" statutes for assault on a pregnant woman, specifically because fetal murder statutes can quickly get into really complicated questions of whether a particular fetus was "wanted" or "unwanted" in deciding whether it was "murdered" (and also I think murder is for people and fetuses are not people until they're born, but that's a separate issue) and allowing judicial discretion on aggravated assault convictions seems like a better option.)

Most other first-world countries also have various forms of fetal murder laws, whether aggravated assault with an attached hate crime (Canada) or "child destruction" in the UK. Also, literally everyone thinks allowing parents to have the option of reclaiming fetuses for "proper burial" is a good idea; those statutes have been widely supported by disability advocates and women's health advocates, because typically fetal tissue from miscarriages or stillbirths was sent out with general hospital medical waste for incineration, and often parents had no option to take the fetus for burial because it was not a "person" and therefore couldn't be released for funereal purposes so parents who terminated due to non-viability or lost a wanted pregnancy lost that important opportunity to mourn.

ArbitraryAndCapricious: "Dr. McGuire is a proud member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists"

He works at St. Joe's Medical Center -- of COURSE he is. I don't want to sound victim-blamey because this is basically the saddest case in the history of the world -- but Notre Dame is a couple miles up the road from St. Joe's, and St. Joe's, the Catholic hospital, is literally right across the street from South Bend Memorial, which is a public hospital -- you can walk from the ambulance bay of one to the other -- and the female students at Notre Dame knew better than to go to St. Joe's for, uh, reproductive care. There's a giant sign in the ER waiting room that says "YOU AND YOUR UNBORN FETUS ARE ENTITLED TO THE BEST CARE WE CAN PROVIDE" or some shit like that. (I don't want to suggest that a woman in a traumatic emergency situation should have been aware of all these local filioques. Merely that I am not surprised by the ob/gyn. I saw the story and I was like, "I bet she was at St. Joe's." Then I saw the hospital name in the news stories and I was like, OF COURSE it was St. Joe's. OF COURSE it was.)

That said, I think this is actually a kind-of bad case for either side to make a stand on -- it's complicated and sad, the facts are murky but not great for the defendant, the prosecutor probably should have pled her out, but I'm not actually sure about the success of an appeal to exonerate her because of the ugliness of the facts. This is clearly not the intent of the statute, but I do think (upon a basic review of the language of the law and having a basic familiarity with Illinois and Indiana laws) that this prosecution is reasonably contained within the language of the statute, and I'm not confident that the Seventh Circuit would overrule the statute.

poffin boffin: "Like honestly if I walked into two gynecologist's offices side by side and one had a membership plaque in an antichoice organization on the wall and the other had a bookshelf with only Tucker Max books on it I would go for the date rape enthusiast and feel like I lucked out."

This is like literally the situation in downtown South Bend.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:40 PM on March 31, 2015 [32 favorites]


Yep, it's like Indiana is trying new ways to stand out in terribleness in response to it's neighbors being run by shitbags.
posted by Ferreous at 7:45 PM on March 31, 2015


Eyebrows: You say that "the facts are murky but not great for the defendant"; that assumes that she did something for which she needs to have defended herself in the first place. And I'm still not convinced she did; abortion is legal. About the only thing I can see her having been guilty of is purchasing shady drugs online, and a shit-ton of guys in search of cheap Viagra have done that and they aren't being slammed with 20 years of jail time.

So why does it matter what kind of defendant she makes if she has nothing to defend herself from in the first place?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:45 PM on March 31, 2015 [17 favorites]


This is outrageous and disgusting.
posted by humanfont at 7:48 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Every day of last week brought new horror to the aircraft crash in Europe...

This week every day brings new horror in my home state of Indiana.... ugh
posted by MikeWarot at 7:54 PM on March 31, 2015


And in today's news about politicians inserting themselves into conversations between doctor and patient:
PHOENIX — Once again, Arizona finds itself on the frontier of anti-abortion legislation: Late Monday, it became the first state to pass a law requiring doctors who perform drug-induced abortions to tell women that the procedure may be reversible, an assertion that most doctors say is wrong.
posted by zachlipton at 7:57 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Eyebrows, how do you reach that conclusion? They have no proof, other than some text messages discussing a possibility, that she bought or used the drugs. None. Zero. No receipt, no transaction, no drugs. No trace of the drugs in her system or the fetus's. How could that be a valid charge?

They also have no proof, even by their archaic water test, that the fetus was ever viable or capable of taking a breath. You can't abandon a fetus that was miscarried and never alive.

She is in jail for the crime of...what? Miscarriage is not a crime. Neither is adultery, anymore. Though I certainly think the fact that she is a) brown and b) had sex outside of marriage has a lot to do with the fact that any of this reached a courtroom.

There is no reason for her to be in jail. At most, it seems like you could fine her for improper disposal of the fetus.
posted by emjaybee at 8:08 PM on March 31, 2015 [28 favorites]


Eyebrows, how do you reach that conclusion? They have no proof, other than some text messages discussing a possibility, that she bought or used the drugs. None. Zero. No receipt, no transaction, no drugs. No trace of the drugs in her system or the fetus's. How could that be a valid charge?

Ah but you're thinking about it rationally. Try thinking about it the way a homicide detective would, because that's what happened. You've got the victim. You have a suspect who admits to an, er, intimate relationship with the victim and admits to being at the scene of the crime. You have motive. And you have the suspect sending text messages where she discusses committing the crime and where she would buy the murder weapon. That's a pretty good case right there if your goal is to convict someone and you don't care about justice, common sense, or public policy.

Sure, you don't actually have the "weapon," any proof it was used, or any proof it ever actually existed, but that problem barely makes the top-10 list of what makes this case so screwed up.
posted by zachlipton at 8:15 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "You say that "the facts are murky but not great for the defendant"; that assumes that she did something for which she needs to have defended herself in the first place. And I'm still not convinced she did; abortion is legal."

Abortion is legal for licensed providers, specifically to avoid this kind of thing. That is not her situation (and I totally recognize the complications involved in prosecuting a woman for "self-abortion" but that's not in the statute). She received 6 years for the "feticide," but 20 for the felony child neglect -- and if the fetus was born alive (upon reviewing the evidence I think that is a reasonable conclusion for a jury to have drawn), disposing of it in a dumpster is seriously problematic, and other, much more progressive, states routinely prosecute teenagers for the same actions.

Basically if I were looking at this as an attorney, I'd think it's a bad law, but a worse case, that she wouldn't have a great chance of winning on appeal.

I don't want to defend the prosecution; if I were the prosecutor, I would have pled her out because to me it seems much more important that she get psychological care and social assistance, and this is a dog of a case, but if you read through the prosecution's case for child neglect (totally leaving aside the feticide charge, and taking into account admissible and inadmissible evidence), it's not super-great for the defendant. I don't really think anything is gained by jailing her in any case -- sentence her to a pro-forma "time served" and a probationary period with mandatory counseling and social worker supervision because her family seems terrible -- but I wouldn't love to be her defense attorney appealing this.

This is one of those cases where my moral, legal, and practical intuitions are relatively separated. Legally, I think she has a bad case, given the state of the law. Practically, I think what she needs is care and support (and not to be in jail). Morally, I think this is a totally fucked-up situation with a woman in a horrible, traumatic situation who didn't receive the care or support she needed and didn't know where to turn. I can think it's a shitty, awful situation while still thinking it's a bad legal case, and I can think both of those things while still thinking the practical needs of the defendant are a third thing entirely.

emjaybee: "They also have no proof, even by their archaic water test, that the fetus was ever viable or capable of taking a breath."

There were like six pieces of evidence brought that the fetus was at least briefly alive; the reporting on this case has largely been terrible. I mean, not more terrible than run-of-the-mill court reporting. But run-of-the-mill terrible. I can't tell you what I would have thought if I were a member of that jury, but I think it is at least reasonable for the jury to have decided that the fetus was briefly alive, based on the evidence presented, which means an appeals court is highly unlikely to overturn the finding of fact. (Indeed, I know it's ridiculously difficult to overturn a fact-finding jury's finding of the facts, even if their finding of the facts is incredibly stupid and at odds with all known laws of physics and biology, so when you're thinking about how to take on a case, you gotta pretend the facts as found are real.)

But srsly, MetaFilter, don't make me the defender of the prosecution, I have no interest in making their case. It's a bad case the prosecutor shouldn't have taken -- even if the facts of the case are construed in the worst possible way for Ms. Patel, she's a victim of trauma, not a cold-blooded murderer. I just think, based on what I've read of the law and the evidence, it's also a bad case to try to appeal. They may very well win the appeal! There are a lot of very smart lawyers out there who make excellent arguments for terrible cases, and God bless them! Many of them are smarter than me and they might win! I'm just not enthusiastic about this case's chances.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:18 PM on March 31, 2015 [45 favorites]


Miscarriage is not a crime.

Depends on the jurisdiction, unfortunately.
posted by el io at 8:18 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


you also don't have a victim. you have a miscarried fetus.
posted by nadawi at 8:18 PM on March 31, 2015 [8 favorites]


“It was actually a very surreal moment,” he recalls. “I decided there was nothing more for me to do at the hospital, so I would actually go over to the Target store myself as well. Maybe I could help in some way.”

What the actual? The doctor left the hospital so he could go play detective personally?


I don't know anything about the doctor's politics, but if he thought there was a remote possibility of the fetus being alive, him going to provide medical attention doesn't seem downright villainous.
posted by justkevin at 8:19 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


fuck, i'm so disgusted and scared. it's getting straight up terrifying here in the flyovers. i can't wait until menopause.
posted by nadawi at 8:19 PM on March 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


read the thread - his politics are discussed. he's an anti-choice doctor at a catholic hospital. also the casualness with which he discusses his participation doesn't make it sound at all like he thought he was rushing to help an alive infant.
posted by nadawi at 8:21 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Miscarriage is not a crime.

This is now debatable, apparently.
posted by Avenger at 8:27 PM on March 31, 2015


There's no reason for the doctor to leave the hospital unless he thought there might be a viable infant based on the development of the placenta. This case is all kinds of fucked up but its not that hard to understand why he might go to the Target, and it's not to "play detective".
posted by Justinian at 8:51 PM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


err, development of the umbilical cord obviously, not placenta.
posted by Justinian at 8:51 PM on March 31, 2015


weird that he didn't actually include that in his stated reasoning, if that's true. how many defenses for the behavior of the anti-choice gynecologist are we going to entertain in this thread?
posted by nadawi at 8:53 PM on March 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


I dunno, how many completely baseless speculations about playing detective will we entertain?
posted by Justinian at 8:54 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Eyebrows, I don't believe there are any non-Catholic hospitals left in St. Joe County; my experience with Memorial is that rooms have a crucifix hanging on the wall.
posted by worldswalker at 8:55 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Prosecutors maintained that Ms. Patel had ordered illegal abortion drugs from overseas ... no evidence of these drugs was ever found, and no evidence of their existence was ever presented in court

How the everloving fuckbeans is it even remotely legal for the prosecution to say "Hey so this person totally did this thing, nah, we have no evidence for it, just trust us"?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:02 PM on March 31, 2015


can you even imagine if men had to wonder if their urologist was more interested in the contents of their nut sack than the person attached to the penis? anti-choice gynecologist. fuck. it's a real fear. the only way i can assure that i have a pro-choice gynecologist is to go to planned parenthood, which is frankly overworked and understaffed, but it's the only place where i can be reasonably sure the doctor would prioritize me above my uterus.
posted by nadawi at 9:02 PM on March 31, 2015 [16 favorites]


The test they used to convict her sounds idiotic. I'm surprised they didn't throw her in a lake to see if she was a witch while they were at it.
posted by Justinian at 9:04 PM on March 31, 2015 [15 favorites]


I can't find the words to rant effectively so please insert here a profanity-laden rant about the utter fucking stupidity of 'religious freedom' laws with regards to people who have made a choice to serve the public, e.g. fucking doctors whose fucking job is to fucking help people with the results of their fucking.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:09 PM on March 31, 2015 [8 favorites]


> How the everloving fuckbeans is it even remotely legal for the prosecution to say "Hey so this person totally did this thing, nah, we have no evidence for it, just trust us"?

Hello, are you new to our criminal justice system? Would you like a tour? Say no! run away! run away while screaming "noooooo!!!!"
posted by rtha at 9:14 PM on March 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah rtha I know. It's just.. how? How can this possibly happen?

And then I realize: elected judges. You cannot have an impartial judiciary if they have to campaign for their positions.

Couple that with the general misogyny in the USA and bam: women in prison for having had an entirely natural and in most cases highly traumatic thing happen to them.

Next step: prison time for women who are infertile.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:18 PM on March 31, 2015


I am really really disappointed in the state of Indiana.

.

FUck
posted by kuatto at 9:20 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


It used to be that there was one felony in which the burden of proof was on the defendant: infanticide, under the 1624 Parliament act.

Whereas many lewd women that have been delivered of bastard children, to avoid their shame, and to escape punishment, do secretly bury or conceal the death of their children, and often, if the child is found dead, the said women do allege, that the said child was born dead…. Be it enacted … in every such case the mother so offending, shall suffer death as in the case of murther, except such mother can make proof by one witness at the last that the child . . . was born dead. -- (21 James I c.27 1624)

You will note that this is the reversal of the usual criminal procedure, where the prosecutor must prove the guilt of the defendant. Baby clothes were the most common means of proving innocence--if defendants could show they had made some sort of clothing or supplies for the expected infant, they could prove they had not expected to kill it.

Can't pin a woman for murder, manslaughter, or infanticide? No fear! Concealing the birth of a child was also a felony punishable by death! Unmarried women who concealed the dead body of their infant could be executed whether they'd actually killed it or not, hooray! I believe the last American execution for this was a Massachusetts woman in 1785.

Now by the enlightened era of, say, the 1820s, it was no longer a capital offense to conceal the birth of a child (though it was still a felony or a misdemeanor), in either England or America--and when these laws were amended, they usually explicitly said that women could still be charged with infanticide, but that the usual laws of criminal procedure would now apply. And that juries could convict on concealment of birth when infanticide could not be proved. Public opinion had changed, juries were less and less willing to send girls to their deaths without clear proof of homicide.

However, concealment of birth is still a felony or misdemeanor in most U. S. states.

Yeah, we say "miscarriage is not a crime" but really, it can be if someone decides you've done it in the wrong way.

TL;DR: There is a long Anglo-American history of literally changing the rules of evidence and burden of proof when women have illegitimate babies.
posted by Hypatia at 9:20 PM on March 31, 2015 [59 favorites]


And then I realize: elected judges. You cannot have an impartial judiciary if they have to campaign for their positions.

The judge doesn't bring charges, that's the DA. And he doesn't find the defendant guilty, that's the jury. So I'm not sure what you're getting at.
posted by Justinian at 9:34 PM on March 31, 2015


Unless you mean the sentence, in which case the judges don't pass mandatory sentencing laws, that's the politicians.
posted by Justinian at 9:35 PM on March 31, 2015


I think some of the rage is that the judge seems to have made a number of debateable calls about evidence in favor of the prosecution, which has been filtered into the popular press as "conservative judge sends woman to jail" when indeed it's not so simple (and she made a couple of significant rulings against the prosecution, though I think she was leaning in their favor). But yeah, the general press reporting has been unclear on the many moving parts here and how they interact.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:47 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


What I'm getting at is "what the fuck do you think you're doing, prosecutor? If you're going to make an allegation you'd better substantiate that with evidence."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:48 PM on March 31, 2015


It's generally the jury's job to decide that. Maybe you think judges should throw out weak cases more often, and I might even agree, but I think the judge's part in this is by far the least objectionable and is missing the forest for the trees.
posted by Justinian at 9:50 PM on March 31, 2015


The jury shouldn't be hearing anything not substantiated by evidence. That's the judge's job. It is simply not possible to tell a human being something and then say "oh no forget that, pretend it never happened."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:52 PM on March 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


I had a miscarriage at almost seven months. I started bleeding and cramping and went to the hospital (California); they examined me and told me it was just false labor and sent me home (this was before the ultrasound was invented - or at least before it was available. I drove home and just made it to the toilet when the baby dropped out. I caught him and stood there trying to figure out what to do and how to do it, and he wiggled a bit and I'm pretty sure he took a breath, then he shuddered and was still. He was blue, of course, just from his very small size if nothing else. I finally hobbled to the living room and called my neighbor who came and took me/us back to the hospital. They tut-tutted, took my baby and didn't bring him back, did some sort of procedure on me - a D&C I suppose - and sent me home, no longer pregnant - my son thrown into their incinerator I assume.

I had three other miscarriages, but they were all early and wouldn't have been noticeable, but just for the one I've described I guess I could have served years in prison - except that it was in the 70s, in a hospital that was not religious, in a state that was not a habitat for zealots.

God help this woman and others like her.
posted by aryma at 9:57 PM on March 31, 2015 [74 favorites]


there's plenty of anger to go around, the judge (and the way we choose judges, and how that is evidence of our whole broken system) can take their share.
posted by nadawi at 9:57 PM on March 31, 2015


Now there are like 5 clinics in the entire state of Texas.

Yeah; I still find this map to be sobering and useful. Note that the clinics still operating are in places wealthy white people are more likely to be, while the clinics that have closed are in more isolated, poor, not-white regions. Shutting down Planned Parenthood also affects LGB/T health as well as cishet women's, since PP as an organization have a more ambivalent attitude toward treating LGB/T people, while most other healthcare facilities pretty openly discriminate or refuse to treat.

More on topic, Patel's story is just terrifying and rage-making. Raze it all to the ground.
posted by byanyothername at 10:00 PM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


It is simply not possible to tell a human being something and then say "oh no forget that, pretend it never happened."

Um ... judges do indeed tell the jurors to ignore this information and overlook that statement and - oh, yes - all the time.

When you're a juror on a murder trial, I can tell you it's enough to make you scream. Our notes had more stuff scratched out than what remained on the page.

Sorry - derail.
posted by aryma at 10:02 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Judges may tell jurors to ignore things. Not sure that's actually possible.

And in any case--this judge didn't tell the jury to ignore the imaginary horseshit the prosecution was making up.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:03 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


threw the stillborn fetus in a dumpster
This is where the story gets weird and makes me wonder if there is a reason to prosecute her. I do not know the facts of the case, but throwing a fetus (even stillborn) in a dumpster feels very wrong.
posted by niccolo at 10:05 PM on March 31, 2015


"The jury shouldn't be hearing anything not substantiated by evidence."

In the United States - and in most common law jurisdictions - it is in fact the jury's job to hear the several contested claims of fact, weigh them, and decide on what "actually happened." The judge decides which law applies; the jury decides if the facts were present.

While it is easy, on appeal, to challenge the judge's application of law, it is extremely difficult to challenge the jury's finding of fact. I've talked a little about the philosophical and theological underpinnings of jury fact finding in common law systems before.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:08 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


she had reason to fear the reactions of her family and community. getting an abortion in indiana ain't exactly easy. if only abortion were free and accessible (including being able to discreetly order the necessary drugs) , she might have terminated the pregnancy early in the process.
posted by nadawi at 10:10 PM on March 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


There was a post here recentish about that, about the depersonalization some people go through after miscarrying--or even delivering--a child. Throwing it in a dumpster may 'feel wrong' and it is very, very common.

it is in fact the jury's job to hear the several contested claims of fact

Point being, this wasn't a contested claim of fact (the stuff about the medications); it was a completely unsubstantiated piece of horseshit put forth by the prosecution. Not a hair of evidence for it beyond discussing the maybe possibility. Not found in autopsy, no evidence of purchase, nothing. Not contested because it didn't bloody happen. Which is why the judge should have said "hey now, have you got any actual evidence for this thing you're positing? Because if there isn't any, you don't get to say it."

Forgive me for being an idealist who believes that trials should hinge on actual evidence and not whatever fantods the prosecution decides to make up.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:12 PM on March 31, 2015 [8 favorites]


"getting an abortion in indiana ain't exactly easy. if only abortion were free and accessible "

There are two abortion clinics in South Bend, one on Ironwood and one on Grape Road. (It's not North Dakota.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:16 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


> This is where the story gets weird and makes me wonder if there is a reason to prosecute her. I do not know the facts of the case, but throwing a fetus (even stillborn) in a dumpster feels very wrong.

There is probably a law on the books about maltreatment or disposal of human remains, but should it merit 20 years in prison? I'm thinking no.
posted by rtha at 10:23 PM on March 31, 2015 [8 favorites]


The database for the ProLife OBGYN group is searchable.
posted by strixus at 10:24 PM on March 31, 2015 [18 favorites]


I mean, look, I lived there. I have Catholic friends who terminated pregnancies there. It's not a socialist wonderland but South Bend in particular is hardly a stronghold pro-life Christians with no other options. Despite the best work of the lobbyists at Notre Dame there are two easily accessible abortion clinics on major bus routes and you can get your birth control on campus.

Its a weird place with its own stuff going on, especially w/r/t St. Joe's Medical Center, but there are many options locally and they are not hard to find. It is not completely backwards.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:27 PM on March 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Intel has what they call a "tick tock" method of introducing microprocessors. First they create a brand new architecture, "tock" and then they improve it by shrinking it down, "tick." After they have proven yields on the smaller die sizes, they then use that size but adapt it to a fresh new architecture. "Tock" again, and so on. In this way they keep ratcheting up the improvements in organized fashion, and the competition can't keep up.

Our conservatives have their own tick tock strategy. First they pass some crazy law or implement some outrageous policy that they initially only enforce against minorities. Nobody cares because it's only some brown person getting punished, big deal. TOCK. Then after having established that they product works, that they can get away with some human rights atrocity on a local level, they make it portable, spread it from state to state, normalize it, universalize it. TICK. Progressives can't keep up because each time the clock resets, it establishes a new normal. By the time mainstream America wakes up to what happened, the new policy is already a fait accompli and we're scrambling like AMD, I mean, like mad, to fight on a new front.
posted by xigxag at 10:38 PM on March 31, 2015 [56 favorites]


I am fucking disgusted and horrified that there is no method by which potential patients can search a database to make sure they can avoid being subjected to these asshole's prejudices. It fucking sickens me to think of vulnerable women of any age being fed the grotesque lies on that shitty group's homepage, much less having any of them be the primary maternal health doctor of any human being.

Worse yet, in many areas even in washington state where i live that's supposedly "progressive" that can be nearly every hospital. And in an emergency potentially-bleeding-to-death situation like this you often don't even get to choose.

I can't find the newer article with a map, but the gist of it was that there were many large swaths of the state where the only hospital in range of you without a HUGE like, most of the day drive and possibly ferry ride/etc was part of that network and therefor was all about jesus in your uterus and stuff like this situation.

When you read this, think of all the other people who have gone through similar awful shit we just never hear about. There is no way around this kind of religious-directed healthcare in huge areas of many states, even the "good" states you wouldn't expect.
posted by emptythought at 10:47 PM on March 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


The "he's a mandatory reporter" thing also suggests the doctor might have thought there was plausibly a liveborn viable-if-preterm infant - what's mandatory to report is abuse of a child, not of a fetus, and his obligation is to call the Child Abuse Hotline, not 911.

Alternatively, the doctor knew exactly what he was dealing with and stepped well outside his mandate because he thought he might be able to punish a woman for terminating a second-trimester pregnancy. He went to the house, even though neither his car nor a police car are likely to be stocked with even the basic pediatric life-support supplies that any ambulance carries, never mind what's needed for neonatal resuscitation.
posted by gingerest at 11:31 PM on March 31, 2015 [14 favorites]


This is where the story gets weird and makes me wonder if there is a reason to prosecute her. I do not know the facts of the case, but throwing a fetus (even stillborn) in a dumpster feels very wrong.

Just because something makes you feel uncomfortable does not mean it should be illegal.

This should be, at most, a case of illegal disposal of medical waste, remains, hazardous materials, whatever the local statutes that applied were.

Going much further than that when its possible to determine it wasn't viable(and when there's no proof of abortion) is quickly in to "did you knit baby clothes?" territory as per further up the thread.
posted by emptythought at 12:17 AM on April 1, 2015 [13 favorites]


Its a weird place with its own stuff going on, especially w/r/t St. Joe's Medical Center, but there are many options locally and they are not hard to find. It is not completely backwards.

It's pretty problematic that unless you are very culturally aware and on top of things, the building that looks like an ordinary hospital where you can go to get medical care could actually be a hotbed of religious nutjobs that will impose their religious will upon you in the name of medicine.

Even more fucked up is that the state supports these institutions and there isn't a big warning sign when you enter.

If I had my druthers it'd be a federal law that any hospital that accepts any money from the government in any form is required to perform abortions.

I swear I'd be a totally benevolent dictator.
posted by el io at 1:08 AM on April 1, 2015 [29 favorites]


The ACLU has quite a bit of material about the affiliation of hospitals in WA, and I found it a bit surprising, actually. (Link includes links to maps, as well as a lot of other stuff.)
posted by hippybear at 1:17 AM on April 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


To those framing this issue as a simple case of "woman prosecuted for having a miscarriage," how do you address Patel's text messages such as:

“I’d rather not even go to a doc. I just want to get this over with,” and

“These pills taste like ….” (expletive deleted) and that “if these don’t work after tasting so nasty, I’m going to be mad.”

“Just lost the baby. I’m gonna clean up the bathroom and then go to Moe’s.”

?

I mean, not even from a legal standpoint, but how you actually feel about it? Do you honestly believe she didn't take the pills? Do you dispute that she sent these messages at all? Do you think panic/shame/fear from an accidental miscarriage adequately explains her actions during the aftermath?

Aside from admissibility or "reasonable doubt," how does one reconcile the defendant's text messages with an assumption of innocence?

I'm extremely pro-choice, probably unreasonably so, but Patel's words and actions both before and after the miscarriage (accidental or not) are very troubling to me. The judge in the case even said, during sentencing, more or less that she "could have gotten a legal abortion and everything would have been fine." That she had personal reasons for not following that course of action is understandable, but does not absolve everything.

Does anything other than her plea of not guilty convince you that this was a genuinely accidental miscarriage?
posted by ShutterBun at 2:35 AM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think the feticide thing is bogus: if an act would be legal when performed for a patient by a doctor, it must be legal when performed by the patient on herself. The child neglect one is the difficult one for me: if she delivered a living baby (as the court found) then how is it not a case of abandonment or neglect?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:51 AM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


There does not seem to be a legal fund for Patel at present. The closest I found was a collection for her family that was set up by Apna Ghar, a Chicago-based group advocating for Southeast Asian women’s rights.

While the Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice may be helping Patel by speaking out against her conviction, I don't see any evidence that they providing anything beyond this. Sheydem-tants' link is to donate to the organization's general fund, nothing will be earmarked for Patel specifically.
posted by stinker at 3:52 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks for providing the text messages, Shutterbun. Here's a local TV station's story about them. The link in the post about drugs is misleading when it says Patel "talked to a friend about buying abortion drugs online." She did more than that; she talked with a friend about how they tasted like shit. Whatever we feel about her right to end her pregnancy on her own, we should at least have the full story before feeling it. Those specific text messages were probably very influential in the jury's decision, and I'm surprised it took me til now to find out about them.
posted by mediareport at 4:14 AM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Which would I rather: a woman having a child who doesn't want one or a woman having an abortion.

Wait, it's none of my business because it isn't my body.
posted by winna at 4:32 AM on April 1, 2015 [19 favorites]




I think there's a lot of effort from both sides here to misrepresent this case, and just generally paint it as something it's not.

I don't know if i believe those texts are real. I also don't know if we're ever going to see a proper context of what they really meant, rather than a few pull quotes that sound really damning without said context.

For this to not turn in to some quibbling over whether she's the perfect victim of the system or we just got riled up over nothing or whatever, we need to focus on the main fucked thing here: Whether she had a miscarriage or an illegal abortion, she should not be in prison for 20 years.

And i have a really, really hard time believing anything presented with a straight face by the prosecution or anyone else involved in that side of this. Like, witness 40 levels of skepticism. Especially after the shit with the doctor rushing over to find something to punish this evil mother with or whatever.

Do you honestly believe she didn't take the pills?

I think it's pretty damning that no evidence of them ever existing except for those potentially out of context texts could be rustled up, yes.

Do you dispute that she sent these messages at all?

I'm open the idea that they're a complete ass-covering fabrication after the fact, and i think that even if they are legit they're likely completely out of context and were chosen entirely for the salacious phrasing.

Do you think panic/shame/fear from an accidental miscarriage adequately explains her actions during the aftermath?

Other people have covered this above, and yes, i absolutely think it does. And everything that's happened since then outside her family proved she had absolute reason to be fearful and stressed to the point of acting in ways that seem "odd" when you're armchair quarterbacking.


My counter question would be, do you think, even if what they're alleging is true, that she should be in prison for 20 years? what? I think the way this is being presented is Amanda Knox levels of absurd in a lot of ways. It STINKS.
posted by emptythought at 4:46 AM on April 1, 2015 [13 favorites]


Assuming for the moment that she tried to DIY an abortion and it wasn't an accidental miscarriage, the text messages don't bother me, nor do her actions in trying to DIY the abortion. The dumpster thing threw me for a loop, but I have no idea what I would do in her case, and I believe she thought the baby was stillborn (which would be hard to distinguish from born alive, immediately died for a layperson).
posted by jeather at 4:54 AM on April 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Those specific text messages were probably very influential in the jury's decision, and I'm surprised it took me til now to find out about them.

My first exposure to the case was succeeded by a rebuttal which included the above quoted texts, so yeah, I put on my "wait a second..." hat almost immediately. Although those are the only "direct quotes" I've seen in media stories, some make mention of the fact that the pills were indeed delivered to Patel's parents' restaurant, (an email message, I think) but without a direct quote.

elsewhere...

I don't know if i believe those texts are real.

OK, that is a level of skepticism that I think goes WAY beyond reasonable. You're suggesting a conspiracy of (potentially) MASSIVE scope. Considering they have been quoted verbaitm in NUMEROUS legitimate news articles reporting on the case, either they're real, or a shitload of people are guilty of perjury.

What that also tells me is that you are probably not listening to ALL of the facts, but rather only those which suit the story of a wrongly persecuted woman, in a state which is making headlines for reactionary lawmaking lately.

I haven't seen anything in the trial reporting to suggest that the defense was refuting the content of the texts, only that they insisted that the texts themselves don't "prove" anything. (but let's face it, if someone confesses to a crime on a wiretap, but the FBI can't find their fingerprints on the gun, that doesn't necessarily invalidate the confession.)

Whether she had a miscarriage or an illegal abortion, she should not be in prison for 20 years.

The "illegal abortion" charge garnered only a 6 year sentence, to be served concurrently with the 20. The 20 year sentence stemmed from the fact that the jury believed the prosecution's contention that the baby was born alive, and that her neglect caused it to die. (this information is available, folks)

I think it's pretty damning that no evidence of them ever existing except for those potentially out of context texts could be rustled up, yes.

If the case comes up on appeal, I suspect that the prosecution will provide proof that the pills in question WERE ordered by the defendant, and WERE delivered to her parents' business. Given the nature of the pills, they cannot prove beyond a *shadow* of a doubt that she took them, but there is a lot of circumstantial evidence.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:19 AM on April 1, 2015


2 abortion clinics in town does not equal free and accessible. there shouldn't be laws against taking abortion drugs at home. you shouldn't have to know the religious affiliation of a hospital before entering it life saving treatment. she shouldn't be in prison for 20 years.
posted by nadawi at 5:21 AM on April 1, 2015 [30 favorites]


As far as I know, UK infanticide law recognises that the vast turbulence of pregnancy and labour may produce an altered state of mind, particularly when the mother's material circumstances are sub-optimal:
The Infanticide Act 1922: effectively abolished the death penalty for a woman who deliberately killed her new born child while the balance of her mind was disturbed as a result of giving birth, by providing a partial defence to murder. The sentence that applies (as in other partial defences to murder) is the same as that for manslaughter. This Act was repealed by section 2(3) of the Infanticide Act 1938.

The Infanticide Act 1938: extended this defence to cases where "at the time of the act or omission the balance of her mind was disturbed by reason of her not having fully recovered from the effect of giving birth to the child or by reason of the effect of lactation consequent upon the birth of the child."[1]

Before the partial murder defence of diminished responsibility was introduced to English law in the Homicide Act 1957, this provided an important means of selecting a more lenient sentence for a mother found guilty of killing her infant than the mandatory life sentence or death sentence applying to murder at the time.

In recent years, it has become very rare for a mother who kills her infant child to receive a custodial sentence, except in very exceptional circumstances.[2]


And that's with actual admitted killing, not hidden pregnancy and a traumatic miscarriage. So reading about this case is just...wtf?
posted by glasseyes at 5:21 AM on April 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


do you think, even if what they're alleging is true, that she should be in prison for 20 years?


Errrmmm....they are alleging that she threw a live infant/fetus (which she had previously tried to illegally abort) in the trash to die. 20 years is a gift.

I don't really know enough details to make an informed decision on whether or not it was alive at the time, but that seems to have been the MAJOR focus of the case.

My question was really more about "how does everyone who is rushing to her defense explain the texts?" They just seem REALLY damning to me, though I agree that context is important.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:24 AM on April 1, 2015


I thought that this post was some kind of poorly considered April Fool's joke.

I see that it is not.

Jesus.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:32 AM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


how do i explain the texts about the "illegal abortion"? literally do not care. if anything it proves the fetus wasn't alive. you said yourself, the focus on the case was the question of alive baby or dead fetus - why would the texts matter one iota to that? and as far as that charge, the use of the widely discredited test proves to me they were looking for the result they wanted, not the truth.
posted by nadawi at 5:34 AM on April 1, 2015 [18 favorites]


just to repeat FritoKAL's point - no it's not april fools, it's the terrifying reality that a lot of women in the country are staring down.
posted by nadawi at 5:36 AM on April 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


OK, that is a level of skepticism that I think goes WAY beyond reasonable. You're suggesting a conspiracy of (potentially) MASSIVE scope. Considering they have been quoted verbaitm in NUMEROUS legitimate news articles reporting on the case, either they're real, or a shitload of people are guilty of perjury.

Nah, all it would really take is one overzealous prosecutor or someone involved embellishing, or taking out of context. This would not be anything new when it comes to the past few years of people of color doing things the local government doesn't like in high profile court cases. I'm not really a crazy conspiracy theorist for wondering about this.

What that also tells me is that you are probably not listening to ALL of the facts, but rather only those which suit the story of a wrongly persecuted woman, in a state which is making headlines for reactionary lawmaking lately.

Nah, i am. And i am skeptical. I did have the wait a minute moment. It's just that after everything i've seen, as i said, over the past couple years(and not even major news stories, local stuff i've heard about offline too) i don't think i'm crazy to raise an eyebrow at stuff like this that seems almost lazily too perfect once the prosecution realized they didn't have the greatest case but had already taken this to the mat.

And to be clear, i do not for one second accept the "baby was alive = child neglect" thing. That stinks of railroading and a retcon to me. And like the abortion drugs, i don't think they have any real way to prove it. Seriously, the float test thing?


I could turn this around and be a bit of an asshole. When they're pulling stuff like that, and reaching that hard, why shouldn't everything they've pulled out be looked at with extreme skepticism? I'm willing to look at the facts, but i question whether the majority of what we're being handed here are facts at all, and not just crap masquerading as such. It really speaks to the climate of this kind of discussion in general in this country that they can soft pitch it this half assedly and still have everyone turn around and stare at the woman involved like "Hmmmmmm".
posted by emptythought at 5:48 AM on April 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


the focus on the case was the question of alive baby or dead fetus - why would the texts matter one iota to that?

They (the texts) tend to suggest a premeditated outcome, as opposed to an accident.

the use of the widely discredited test proves to me they were looking for the result they wanted, not the truth.

The discredited (though apparently still used) "lung float test" was just one facet, however:

"Prahlow supplemented the evidence from the float test with other findings, testifying that the lungs looked full of air when he removed the fetus’s chest plate during the autopsy, that the air sacs in the lung tissue looked expanded when he looked at them under a microscope, and that the weight of the lungs—approximately 21 grams—was consistent with a live birth. Prahlow also testified that, according to his analysis, blood had started flowing to the lungs, which would have only happened after the baby had taken a breath."
posted by ShutterBun at 5:50 AM on April 1, 2015


The felony child neglect charge is completely bizarre. I've not been able to glean how many weeks pregnant she was but a 2nd term abortion suggests the foetus may not have been viable. The evidence for it being alive is just....juju and withcraft and cargo cult thinking.

I can see the texts are very useful for inflaming righteous indignation but they have no relevance to the child endangerment charge. The only thing they indicate is that the young woman did not want to be pregnant - not a crime - and may or may not have taken particular steps to end the pregnancy.
posted by glasseyes at 5:50 AM on April 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


Twenty years would be a ridiculously punitive sentence for almost any crime. In this case there is no pretense that the sentence can "rehabilitate" her or that society needs to be "protected" from her; the only rationale is that it punishes her. And it does; it effectively destroys her life. How can this be a good thing? If there were ever a case that called out for mercy, it's this one.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:54 AM on April 1, 2015 [30 favorites]


I can see the texts are very useful for inflaming righteous indignation but they have no relevance to the child endangerment charge. The only thing they indicate is that the young woman did not want to be pregnant - not a crime - and may or may not have taken particular steps to end the pregnancy.

Yea, exactly. It preps everyone to be angry about abortion related charges, then they tee up for the "the fetus could have lived premature if it had gotten immediate care! she left it to die in a dumpster!" thing which is also fairly questionable.

The fact they got the abortion charges to stick is disgraceful, but they basically used to set up this whole gross unfit mother dumping a baby to die in a garbage can thing which is basically just an upsetting image they can't prove.

The jury was basically manipulated in to finding "fact" through feelings. The sad part about this is that the "Baby in a dumpster" thing is like, welfare queen in a cadillac levels of classic manipulation image. So they just had to "prove" it was a baby that could have lived, and that she was an evil harpie who wanted to get it out of her and abandon it.

I know i was criticized for wanting to see the narrative of the persecuted woman here but uh... it's pretty hard not to the longer you stare at it, with how they conducted this.
posted by emptythought at 5:58 AM on April 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've not been able to glean how many weeks pregnant she was

Prosecutors alleged 25 weeks. An organization arguing (out of court) in her defense* says 23-24 weeks. Close to 3rd trimester. Fetuses born at 24 weeks have about a 50% survival chance.

* The Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice
posted by ShutterBun at 6:00 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


a guy using a test that back in the 80s was called ridiculous doesn't actually fill me with trust for all of his other findings, which can be explained in other ways (which he discredited, maybe because it disproved his findings?). the "premeditated outcome" was abortion (which i don't think should be illegal). if you plan to abort your fetus in the second term, it doesn't follow that you plan to murder a viable baby. this whole thing was put into motion by people who think abortion is murder - it's not really surprising if she was railroaded along that path this entire time. it's the reason that "pro-life gynecologist" is such a terrifying phrase - they are not pro-their patients' lives, and their power in society often outpaces the privilege of their patients. i don't know how even anti-choice women trust anti-choice gynecologists.
posted by nadawi at 6:06 AM on April 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


The sad part about this is that the "Baby in a dumpster" thing is like, welfare queen in a cadillac levels of classic manipulation image.

Well, the baby WAS found in a dumpster. She brought it in a trash bag from home. This is not in dispute. And let's face it, when babies/fetuses end up in dumpsters, people are gonna want answers.

If she had pleaded to the doctors that it was all a tragic accident, a miscarriage, she was scared and didn't know what to do, etc., things might have gone differently. But instead, she denied everything (even denied miscarrying to the hospital attendants for the first few hours), left a string of incriminating texts, and now her defenders are either trying to argue that A: the laws she's accused of breaking are unconstitutional, or B: she didn't break those laws anyway.

She is not saying "I made a mistake, I am sorry," she's saying "I did nothing wrong," while the state is saying "well, we have quite a bit of evidence which suggests you did."

I agree with those who believe she should have been pleaded out to a lesser charge (indeed, she got 10 years of her 30 year sentence suspended) but she rolled the dice, and let's face it: dead fetuses/babies bring out some serious feelings of vengeance for some people.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:14 AM on April 1, 2015


> dead fetuses ... bring out some serious feelings of vengeance for some people.

And that is PRECISELY the problem.
posted by Westringia F. at 6:18 AM on April 1, 2015 [32 favorites]


If she had pleaded to the doctors that it was all a tragic accident, a miscarriage, she was scared and didn't know what to do, etc., things might have gone differently.

in an anti-choice hospital? not a fucking chance.

the "incriminating texts" are about abortion drugs. how much time do you think dudes illegally ordering boner pills do on average? anywhere close to the 6 years she got for that?
posted by nadawi at 6:19 AM on April 1, 2015 [21 favorites]


A 50% survival chance in a hospital stuffed to the gills with modern equipment, fully-staffed and ready to take heroic measures seconds after delivery. You can't extrapolate from that to giving birth in a bathroom alone, as aryma has very eloquently described above from personal experience.

The definition of child endangerment would need to include not getting yourself to a high-dependance maternity unit while undergoing an abortion, to make any sense of the charge.
posted by glasseyes at 6:20 AM on April 1, 2015 [22 favorites]


If she had pleaded to the doctors that it was all a tragic accident, a miscarriage, she was scared and didn't know what to do, etc., things might have gone differently.

This makes a woman's freedom dependent upon her properly demonstrating feelings of remorse to medical professionals at a time when she is already under a great of stress, irrespective of her personal circumstances. The idea that women must act like they are "scared" and that they must "plead" to demonstrate that they have done nothing wrong is really, really not okay. You are mandating a subservient role in which a woman must act ashamed of herself and her body (and imply that she believes she should not have the right to terminate a pregnancy) for anyone to believe what she says.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:28 AM on April 1, 2015 [84 favorites]


Sorry, I think vengeance is an entirely inappropriate attitude to bring to this discussion, I think it's actually medieval and has no place in the modern world. These attitudes towards women and childbirth don't apply in the legal system of the country I live in and I find them alarming, and this discussion extremely disconcerting.
posted by glasseyes at 6:28 AM on April 1, 2015 [22 favorites]


The definition of child endangerment would need to include not getting yourself to a high-dependance maternity unit

You literally can't see a difference between "failing to get a premature infant to a hospital on time" and "illegally inducing birth and dumping the result in the trash" (as, errr, successfully alleged by the prosecution)?
posted by ShutterBun at 6:29 AM on April 1, 2015


or a shitload of people are guilty of perjury.

The magazine for the Guild of Lawyers (ABA) in the 1990's has an article called "The Lies Have It" points out that a lawyer who served in the DA's office how perjury is 'under prosecuted'.

Something that has not made The Blue yet is the things not allowed by the court in the Silk Road case as another example of the US Just-us system.

A lack of court watchers and a court watching program allows the issues to happen - apathy allows abuse.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:31 AM on April 1, 2015


Sorry, I think vengeance is an entirely inappropriate attitude to bring to this discussion Consider it stricken from the record. That was my choice of words, and I'll gladly retract it. But between you and me, I think you're very naive to pretend it doesn't exist among juries of your country.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:31 AM on April 1, 2015


The analogy you make is not what I said. It's not "failing to get a premature infant to a hospital on time", it's "failing to be in a high-dependency unit for an abortion."

Stepping out now.
posted by glasseyes at 6:33 AM on April 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


20 years is a gift.

How? This isn't a chicken-or-egg thing. She is a direct casualty of a war against reproductive rights in this country. This wasn't an act of malice or any desire for violence. There are major pieces of evidence missing in the prosecution's case, and a good deal of her guilt in both the eyes of the jury and apparently you is that she wasn't repentant enough for her actions from conception onwards.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:33 AM on April 1, 2015 [25 favorites]


Twenty years would be a ridiculously punitive sentence for almost any crime.

With no priors wouldn't ya get less time for outright shooting someone?
posted by rough ashlar at 6:40 AM on April 1, 2015 [18 favorites]


illegally inducing birth and dumping the result in the trash"

nice way to obfuscate the fetus/baby issue - if she induced (an extremely premature birth in the commission of an abortion) and dumped the fetus, then 20 years is not a "gift," no matter how she did or did not beg and plead and perform femininity correctly at exactly the right tine. also, maybe since this is something that will never affect you, you can consider your point made and move on.
posted by nadawi at 6:41 AM on April 1, 2015 [26 favorites]


I mean, not even from a legal standpoint, but how you actually feel about it? Do you honestly believe she didn't take the pills?

Doesn't matter one whit what I believe. What does the evidence show?

What that also tells me is that you are probably not listening to ALL of the facts, but rather only those which suit the story of a wrongly persecuted woman

Is abortion legal Y/N?

If Y, she was wrongly persecuted, end of story.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:56 AM on April 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


And here's the deal, too: there's going to be more of these. Just like there will be more women dying from back-alley abortions. The harder you make contraception and abortion (most women prefer early-term, for obvious reasons) to get, the more women are going to find ways to get rid of an unwanted or dangerous-to-them pregnancy.

Whether you think of this as a miscarriage, infanticide, or a criminal (because self-induced) abortion, it's what you get when you set things up this way.
posted by emjaybee at 6:57 AM on April 1, 2015 [29 favorites]


The analogy you make is not what I said.

Fair enough; you are correct. I missed that part, so I'm sorry for that mis-characterization.

20 years is a gift.

How?


Well, the original desired sentence was 70 years.

She is a direct casualty of a war against reproductive rights in this country.

I guess I'm kinda arguing against both sides of the coin from the edge, here. One group seems to feel like it was a straight-up miscarriage, and no prosecution is warranted. The other side says that it was a self-administered abortion, which should be considered legal. (I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth, but that's how it's reading, in general.) It can't be both ways, which I think is why the prosecution doubled down on the whole "feticide/neglect" charges. If it wasn't one, it had to be the other.

For the side arguing that it should be considered a legal abortion, all I can say is that Indiana state law seems to disagree. Abortion is legal there, but there are rules to follow, which undoubtedly was not the case here. I cannot consider her a "victim" of reproductive rights. If she wanted an abortion, she could have gotten one. Maybe it wasn't as easy as it could have been, but I think it would have been considered "reasonably available."

If, on the other hand, this was a clear-cut miscarriage, then there are numerous details which must be accounted for. Speaking for myself, I can't look at the known facts and eyewitness testimony and simply discount them all. (which is why I dove into this thread in the first place) If none of the text messages existed, I'd probably be inclined to take her at her word. As mentioned upthread, there's really no accounting for how someone is going to react in the wake of a miscarriage. But I can't ignore these details, and barring some sort of contrition, I don't know how to not hold her accountable for what was undoubtedly a terrible way of handling the situation.

Is 20 years too harsh a sentence? I think so. She does have a provision by which she can get her time cut in half for good behavior, and it's always possible to get it reduced on appeal. But as far as the guilty verdict itself (given the laws in place at the time, and assuming nobody is prepared to make a case that they're unconstitutional) I don't see what the major objection is, other than the overall tragedy of the entire situation.
posted by ShutterBun at 7:04 AM on April 1, 2015


Is abortion legal Y/N?

If Y, she was wrongly persecuted, end of story.


Not all forms of abortion are legal, so it depends. That said, since juries are free to vote their consciences (though often unaware of this), if they believed that she was justified in her actions -say, because of systemic pressures keeping her from taking legal actions- they could have acquitted her.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:06 AM on April 1, 2015


Is abortion legal Y/N?

Ahhh, but the power of the State is magic. By the magic blessing of a "licence" the normally illegal becomes legal.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:07 AM on April 1, 2015


(given the laws in place at the time, and assuming nobody is prepared to make a case that they're unconstitutional) I don't see what the major objection is

The major objection is that it's her body and she gets to choose what to do with it. Roe v. Wade settled this question.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:09 AM on April 1, 2015 [12 favorites]


The harder you make contraception and abortion (most women prefer early-term, for obvious reasons) to get, the more women are going to find ways to get rid of an unwanted or dangerous-to-them pregnancy.

Definitely agree there. Indiana is both an "informed consent" state, as well as requiring 2nd trimester abortions to be performed in hospitals/licensed surgical centers. I'd definitely support increasing availability / limiting roadblocks to abortions there.

But there's that side of the coin again: the defense is saying this wasn't about abortion, it was a miscarriage. I'd honestly have an easier time understanding if they took a stand and said "I have a right to an abortion how I see fit," but it was nothing but denials, so that issue falls somewhat to the sidelines.
posted by ShutterBun at 7:14 AM on April 1, 2015


Do you honestly believe she didn't take the pills?

As her lawyers pointed out, there is absolutely no physical proof that she did. Miscarriages do happen spontaneously. So I would not assume she had or took the pills, and I certainly wouldn't send her to prison for 20 years on that assumption.
posted by emjaybee at 7:14 AM on April 1, 2015 [13 favorites]


assuming nobody is prepared to make a case that they're unconstitutional

what a strange phrase - of course people are making a case against the ever worsening restrictive laws that govern abortion.
posted by nadawi at 7:14 AM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


The major objection is that it's her body and she gets to choose what to do with it. Roe v. Wade settled this question.

That would be the case that the law is unconstitutional. Which we are fine with making on the internet, but was not the case argued in court.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:14 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Regarding abortion availability in South Bend:

SB abortion clinic faces possible license revocation

There's currently only one, and they're trying to shut it down. Don't know when the other one closed, though.
posted by worldswalker at 7:21 AM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


That would be the case that the law is unconstitutional. Which we are fine with making on the internet, but was not the case argued in court.

My point being that this case should never have gone to court, because Roe v Wade.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:24 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Prosecutors based the feticide charge on text messages police found on Patel’s phone. They say the messages show she talked to a friend about buying abortion drugs online. But the toxicologist didn’t find any trace of those drugs in her body or in the fetus’ body. And police found no evidence that she actually purchased the drugs.

Great. Thoughtcrime "evidence" now overrules toxicology AND police investigative work.
posted by desuetude at 7:29 AM on April 1, 2015 [18 favorites]


Great. Thoughtcrime "evidence" now overrules toxicology AND police investigative work.

SHE SENT A TEXT WHERE SHE SAYS THE DRUGS TASTED LIKE SHIT.

Geez, talk about a misleading post. Everyone is saying there was NO EVIDENCE that she bought or took drugs, but that's exactly what those text messages are ... evidence.

I can understand and support a law that limits abortion to licensed medical providers, and makes it feticide to try to terminate it yourself.

It's kind of like capital punishment. If an inmate is scheduled to die in five minutes, but a jailer shoots and kills him as he's being taken to the execution chamber, it's still murder.
posted by jayder at 7:32 AM on April 1, 2015


it's not at all like capital punishment since a fetus isn't a baby and it's not murder to have an unlicensed abortion. when we're under a situation where reproductive rights are under constant threat (235 antichoice bills have been proposed since january), i cannot support laws that criminalize women who attempt to go another way, especially since ordering drugs online is a widespread issue that very rarely sees any sort of crackdown on the people ordering the drugs. i bet you'd be hard pressed to find another case where no evidence of the drugs existed except for text message would end in a conviction of receiving medicine without a prescription. evidence that she attempted an unlicensed abortion is not evidence that she murdered a baby. conflating the two is grotesque.
posted by nadawi at 7:37 AM on April 1, 2015 [51 favorites]


Except that there was no corroborating evidence.

HEY COPS THIS CRACK I'M SMOKING IS TERRIBLE

See? Not evidence of me currently smoking crack. Blood and urine tests will show a distinct lack of crack in my system. Cops would be unable to find anyone I'd bought crack from.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:38 AM on April 1, 2015 [21 favorites]


I'll refrain from rebutting jayder and just give a round of applause for nadawi.

But seriously, I've been reading this thread since yesterday and I'm just so glad I live in a country where people get help and support and not punitive justice that helps literally no one.

Oh wait, strike that, flip it. 'Murica, land of the free, something something.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:40 AM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Whether you think of this as a miscarriage, infanticide, or a criminal (because self-induced) abortion, it's what you get when you set things up this way.

This just needs to be repeated over and over.
posted by h00py at 7:43 AM on April 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


If, on the other hand, this was a clear-cut miscarriage, then there are numerous details which must be accounted for.

Burden of proof is on the prosecution, not the accused - that hasn't always been the case in our legal system, and maybe it still isn't always applied in practice, but it is an ideal of our system, and with good reason.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 7:44 AM on April 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


i cannot support laws that criminalize women who attempt to go another way

Once again: she maintains that she DID NOT purchase or take the abortion drugs. If she had said "yes, I did this, because abortion laws in my state are too restrictive," that would be one thing. Instead, it was nothing but denials. In order to forgive, there needs to be some acknowledgement of transgression, even in the face of unjust laws. (even in the Roe vs. Wade case, the plaintiff did not undergo what would have been an illegal abortion)
posted by ShutterBun at 7:45 AM on April 1, 2015


[This is an obviously difficult thread just from the word go; please try and be thoughtful about how you make arguments, and try and avoid dragging in even more heat with e.g. hazy analogies to other hot-button subjects.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:47 AM on April 1, 2015


Once again: she maintains that she DID NOT purchase or take the abortion drugs.

Okay. Accept that at face value. Meaning she had a miscarriage. Natural body processes aren't illegal, so she shouldn't have been prosecuted for it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:48 AM on April 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Forgive?
posted by agregoli at 7:48 AM on April 1, 2015 [27 favorites]


Everyone is saying there was NO EVIDENCE that she bought or took drugs, but that's exactly what those text messages are ... evidence

So text messages overrule toxicology reports? If I texted someone "I'm soooooo drunk right now" and got in an accident, but blew a 0 in multiple breathalyzer tests, and passed roadsite tests with flying colors would you say that I could be charged with drunk driving?
posted by zombieflanders at 7:49 AM on April 1, 2015 [20 favorites]


Burden of proof is on the prosecution

Indeed it is, for the jury. The jury has spoken. We MeFites can't entirely know what they know (yet.) What I was curious about is how one can look at the text messages and reconcile them with their own conclusions.

I've seen some people claim the texts don't matter at all. They appear prima facie to refer to an abortion that either never happened, or was morally allowable (if not legal) and a miscarriage to a stillborn, which should never have been prosecuted.

Others claim that the texts may be unreliable, if not entirely fabricated by the prosecution.

Still others claim that while the texts may be real, they bear no relevance due to the mental state of the defendant.

As of yet, I haven't seen anyone say "assuming these texts refer to true events, this is still a travesty of justice." (I may be wrong there)
posted by ShutterBun at 7:54 AM on April 1, 2015


Forgive?

yeah, he's been pretty clear - she didn't "plead" which keeps some from being able to "forgive" so people are obviously seeking "vengeance" and she should be happy because "20 years is a gift."
posted by nadawi at 7:54 AM on April 1, 2015 [29 favorites]


Indeed it is, for the jury. The jury has spoken.

The jury was told a bunch of crap which is contradicted by the physical evidence.

What I was curious about is how one can look at the text messages and reconcile them with their own conclusions.

Because... banging the same drum here: the physical evidence indicates that said drugs weren't taken.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:56 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Whether you think of this as a miscarriage, infanticide, or a criminal (because self-induced) abortion, it's what you get when you set things up this way.

Yeah, if you want to write laws like this you better do it at the same time as you make abortion widely and freely available and private. That is, if the real goal is protecting the safety of the fetus/baby after birth and not something else. If you want to protect the fetus/baby, you should have at least some form of safe-haven law in effect so parents aren't afraid to go to the hospital, no questions asked and no prosecutions for taking illegal abortion drugs. I'm not saying you should let people totally off the hook for abandoning a live baby in a dumpster in cases where it is proven that did occur, but pro-lifers should be aware of how their own laws are making abandonments more likely to occur.

ShutterBun, thanks for posting the alternative view on the evidence. It's stronger than I initially thought. The text messages are pretty strong evidence she bought and took the drugs. It would be quite a coincidence for her to randomly miscarry right after she told someone she took a drug to cause an abortion. That said, I still have to agree that in the absence of any drug being found in her system in the toxicology there is still some reasonable doubt on that point.

As for the evidence that the baby was alive and viable, I just don't have the medical knowledge to evaluate that. But the guy presenting it relying even in part on the float test makes me incredibly skeptical of anything else he presented.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:58 AM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


The jury was told a bunch of crap which is contradicted by the physical evidence.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The drugs in question are known to be very difficult to detect. That they were not found in the defendant or the fetus should NOT be considered a "contradiction." (just as a lack of fingerprints at a crime scene does not absolve a suspect.) One, after all, cannot prove a negative.

I appreciate that there are a lot of unknowns here, and I realize this sounds like the opposite of "innocent until proven guilty," but a better way to say it would be: "The prosecution was unable to prove conclusively..."
posted by ShutterBun at 8:03 AM on April 1, 2015


As of yet, I haven't seen anyone say "assuming these texts refer to true events, this is still a travesty of justice." (I may be wrong there)

Ok: assuming these texts refer to true events, this is still a travesty of justice.

As a woman, this terrifies me. As a lawyer, this disgusts me.

It doesn't matter if she ingested something with the intention or hope that it would cause a miscarriage. This is not something we can or should be policing. Maybe she did take "abortion pills" or whatever. Maybe it was pennyroyal tea. Maybe it was a glass of wine. Maybe it was a bagel with listeria-prone lox. Maybe she didn't take enough prenatal vitamins; maybe she took too many. We can't police what pregnant women do or do not put in their bodies. We just can't.
posted by melissasaurus at 8:04 AM on April 1, 2015 [57 favorites]


feckless fecal fear mongering: the physical evidence indicates that said drugs weren't taken

Unless I'm missing something -- like a qualified medical opinion to the effect that "if she had taken the drugs she is alleged to have taken, it would definitely have been detected using the methods used here" -- the physical evidence does not indicate that the drugs weren't taken. The physical evidence simply failed to demonstrate that the drugs were taken. Presumably the jury weighed this lack of scientific corroboration against other evidence with which it was presented and concluded that she had taken the drugs.
posted by slkinsey at 8:06 AM on April 1, 2015


other evidence like the lung float test. bullshit from top to bottom.
posted by nadawi at 8:08 AM on April 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Absence of evidence is, however, absence of evidence.

e.g. right now I am strangling a Canada Goose while railing fat lines of meth. You're unlikely to find physical evidence of this. Should I be prosecuted? (Both of those things are illegal in Canada.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:08 AM on April 1, 2015 [15 favorites]


The physical evidence simply failed to demonstrate that the drugs were taken.
Which is why the text messages should have been excluded as prejudicial.
posted by melissasaurus at 8:13 AM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


e.g. right now I am strangling a Canada Goose while railing fat lines of meth. You're unlikely to find physical evidence of this. Should I be prosecuted? (Both of those things are illegal in Canada.)

No, because you're obviously posing a hypothetical. Context matters, and pretending that that any written communication is inherently meaningless is ridiculous on the face. I can't speak to the specifics of the medical tests or their effectiveness, but this particular kind of argument against accountability is & always has been not particularly compelling.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:17 AM on April 1, 2015


Just want to point out, there apparently is no test at all that can find the drugs she was alleged to have taken.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:19 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


How do you know I am not currently strangling a Canada Goose and snarfing up huge piles of meth?

You don't. And no jury in the world would convict me based on me saying so.

This woman should never have seen the inside of a courtroom, period. The only possible thing she could have been charged with is improper disposal of medical waste. Why?

Because abortion is fucking LEGAL.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:21 AM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


(thanks, Drinkie Die)

Elsewhere:

We can't police what pregnant women do or do not put in their bodies. We just can't.

That's a toughie, I have to say. We've all seen the stereotypical pictures of pregnant women smoking cigarettes and had a moment of silent judgement, no? It's hard not to. If a woman is 5 months pregnant, I think a lot of people would assume she intends to carry it full-term, if at all possible. Then again, things change. Her circumstances may change, and we can't really know. Is she guilty of child endangerment if she starts taking drugs? Does that rule stop applying if she has an abortion? Is any of this our business?

No way can I or anyone here answer that for anyone but their own conscience. A "hands-off" approach is definitely my preference, especially (as others have helpfully pointed out) I'm unlikely to ever become pregnant, though pregnancy "in general" could still affect me, (gadzooks!)

If, as you say, you're willing to accept her texts at face value, and still say she is a victim of injustice, I can respect that. I know she was offered a plea deal before going to court last summer (I don't know what the deal was) but I suspect that if she had claimed that this was her only reasonable option, and it was her right to do so, things might have gone differently. (maybe I'm the one being naive now) Instead she denied everything, which only made her look dishonest. Nobody wins here.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:22 AM on April 1, 2015


She is a victim of injustice because abortion is legal. She is a victim of injustice because miscarriages are legal. Whichever way you slice it, whichever story you believe, what she did was legal. Why is this so difficult to understand?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:25 AM on April 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


How do you know I am not currently strangling a Canada Goose and snarfing up huge piles of meth?

You don't. And no jury in the world would convict me based on me saying so.


What if the police found a strangled goose on your front lawn, noticed drug paraphernalia, testified that your behavior was consistent with meth abuse, then subpoenaed a text message of you telling your best friend you just snorted meth?

(I'm not saying this is apples to apples with the case in question, but as you can see, a few details can indeed make a compelling case, even in the absence of toxicology)
posted by ShutterBun at 8:26 AM on April 1, 2015


Is she guilty of child endangerment if she starts taking drugs?
No, because there is no child.
posted by melissasaurus at 8:27 AM on April 1, 2015 [28 favorites]


it's actually dangerous for the woman and the fetus for the woman to quit smoking cold turkey - so your silent judgement is misapplied. who the fuck cares what people assume about a pregnant woman no matter how far along she is. it's not our business or the state's business until there is a breathing, living baby to endanger.

gadzooks!
oh ffs.
posted by nadawi at 8:29 AM on April 1, 2015 [13 favorites]


First, let me stipulate that there is much about the laws and the ways they were applied here that seem like bullshit to me. That said, there is much about this case and the evidence presented that we don't know, especially given the level of armchair lawyering by those who aren't criminal trial lawyers with knowledge of Indiana law. Presumably, for example, the defense presented its own medical experts to contest the prosecution's use of the float test, etc. as evidence demonstrating that the fetus was "alive" to the extent that it drew a breath. Presumably also, the defense presented expert testimony to the effect that, even had the fetus drawn a breath, it would still have been unable to survive and that the presence of air in the lungs doesn't indicate that the defendant sat and watched it die. We should also presume that the defense made every attempt to exclude the text messages for any number of reasons, and that their arguments failed to convince the judge. All of these things are bases for an appeal, and there will certainly be an appeal.
posted by slkinsey at 8:29 AM on April 1, 2015


ShutterBun, just come out with it: you're anti-abortion. There's a whole lot of coy dancing around that here.

There is nothing illegal about what this woman did or didn't do, except, possibly, disposal of what came out of her.

People who have them have the right to control their own uteruses or they don't. It's an all-or-nothing proposition.

Presumably, for example, the defense presented its own medical experts to contest the prosecution's use of the float test, etc

Presumably the jury was made up of humans, who routinely go on 'gut instinct' and presuppositions rather than paying attention to legal niceties. Frankly, I think the whole idea of juries is fucking stupid. Judges are--well, where I come from anyway--actually trained in the law and trained to divorce personal feelings from the legal arguments. Juries aren't.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:33 AM on April 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


Presumably, for example, the defense presented its own medical experts
I don't know if they did in this case, but I wouldn't presume it. The (very high) cost of medical experts is borne by the defendant, unless the judge determines that the experts are "necessary to assure an adequate defense."
posted by melissasaurus at 8:34 AM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


They did, there is a little bit of detail on it here.

Dr. Shaku Teas, a pathologist testifying on behalf of Purvi Patel, said that there was no evidence of a live birth and the flotation test conducted by Dr. Joseph Prahlow was worthless. Teas testified the baby was between 22 and 23 weeks gestation.Her finding of 22-23 weeks gestational age differed from all the states experts, reported ABC. Dr. Bobbie Sutton a surgical pathologist concluded 26-27 weeks of age. Prahlow, the pathologist to perform the autopsy concluded at least 25 weeks of age. Dr. Byrne, who examined Patel, estimated 28- 30 weeks gestation.They all concluded the baby was over 24 weeks, which is the age of viability, meaning the baby had a chance of survival with medical attention.

There is a 15% chance of survival at 23 weeks.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:36 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


We've all seen the stereotypical pictures of pregnant women smoking cigarettes and had a moment of silent judgement, no? It's hard not to.

Maybe it's hard for you.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:36 AM on April 1, 2015 [34 favorites]


"The physical evidence simply failed to demonstrate that the drugs were taken."

Which is why the text messages should have been excluded as prejudicial.
posted by melissasaurus 15 minutes ago [1 favorite +]


I'm sorry, melissasaurus, your statement just shows you know nothing about the rules of evidence.
posted by jayder at 8:36 AM on April 1, 2015


fffm, I can't say that I disagree with you entirely about juries, but I'm not sure that an argument that the US change its whole judicial system is a particularly useful one to make here. Moreover, defendants have the right to choose whether to have a trial by jury or a bench trial. The defendant in this case chose trial by jury.
posted by slkinsey at 8:37 AM on April 1, 2015


The (very high) cost of medical experts is borne by the defendant

... and I thought I couldn't be more terrified, and proxy terrified for others of course, of our legal system. This thread just keeps on giving.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:38 AM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Why is this so difficult to understand?

Abortions are not legal "across the board" in Indiana. Whether that's unconsititutional or not is not the issue. It's patently obvious that if she DID give herself an abortion, it was extra-legal.

Miscarriages are legal. The state maintains that the fetus/baby was alive at birth. ( It's perhaps worth noting that at 23 weeks, the word "miscarriage" no longer applies, whereas "stillborn" takes over, and is exceedingly rare these days. (about 3 per 1,000 births)) The state had a an expert witness who convinced the jury (via various means, some of which are outdated and suspect) that the infant probably was alive for a short time after birth. The jury believed him. Maybe she was railroaded by a vengeful jury, but there certainly seems to be a case.

That's why it's difficult to understand.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:38 AM on April 1, 2015


meaning the baby had a chance of survival with medical attention.

...yeah. In a hospital, maybe. Not at home.

jayder, melissasaurus is what we like to call a 'lawyer.'
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:39 AM on April 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


Unfortunately for women everywhere, so is he.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:40 AM on April 1, 2015 [25 favorites]


> We've all seen the stereotypical pictures of pregnant women smoking cigarettes and had a moment of silent judgement, no?

This is really not the same as saying it should be criminalized behavior. Do you think it should be?

There was a bill in Virginia a few years ago that would have made reporting a miscarriage mandatory, and not reporting one trigger a criminal investigation. Many women sent fake bloody pads to the pol who sponsored the bill; I believe it died in committee.
posted by rtha at 8:42 AM on April 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


We can't police what pregnant women do or do not put in their bodies. We just can't.

That's a toughie, I have to say. We've all seen the stereotypical pictures of pregnant women smoking cigarettes and had a moment of silent judgement, no?


Actually, no, because what other people eat drink and smoke is none of my goddamn business.

But even that aside: Judging is not IMPRISONING. This woman is IN PRISON. She is not being tsked at by strangers, which is an awful, shitty thing to do to a person anyway, and you should stop doing that, btw.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:42 AM on April 1, 2015 [36 favorites]


hutterBun, just come out with it: you're anti-abortion. There's a whole lot of coy dancing around that here.

That's kinda the crazy thing. I'm actually PRO abortion (like, moreso than pro-choice, if you will)

I'd be super happy to go to the wall for the next Roe vs. Wade and make abortion law reform nationwide and easily available. My wife and I have no kids, and although I've never slipped one past the goalie myself, I'd not hesitate in the least to nip a mistake in the bud. Some of my best friends have had abortions, etc. Committed atheist. Don't even really like kids. (obviously nothing I say here will convince anyone of anything, but in all fairness I ought to at least be allowed a rebuttal)

There's a test-case out there for abortion law reform, and useful to illustrate the need for reproductive rights.

This is not that case. In my opinion, this woman fucked up, big time. And in doing so, will probably end up making things more difficult for people who need options. There's a right way and a wrong way of doing things. This was not an indigent woman who could not afford the state-mandated regulations for abortion. This was not someone who simply didn't know better. To be fair, this isn't even a victim of overly strict state abortion laws, since according to her own defense, she did not seek an abortion.

This, to me, is someone who found herself in a very unfortunate situation, as we all do at some time or another. Instead of facing the music, I think she took the lazy way out, and was only sorry when she was found out. I think there are a lot of women in worse situations than her who will end up paying for it, because lawmakers will now be pressured to crack down on "abortion as contraception" people, or however the media decides to portray them, and things will get more difficult for everyone.

Indeed, this case is bad news for Indiana, and us all. But I have to assign the majority of the blame to the defendant in this case, admittedly based only on those facts which have been made public.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:54 AM on April 1, 2015


Ohhh so she didn't do abortion in the right way so therefore she should be in prison for twenty years, gotcha.

She has the right to determine what happens with her uterus or she doesn't. Period. (That is not a pun it is a rhetorical bit of emphasis.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:58 AM on April 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


Indeed, this case is bad news for Indiana, and us all.

1) "us" - the Internet and The Blue go places beyond the US of A.
2) This decision matters if it goes up the appeal ladder.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:59 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Instead of facing the music, I think she took the lazy way out, and was only sorry when she was found out.

I think if there's one thing this country needs more of, it is men telling women that they should face the music and not take the lazy way out of something that said men will never actually have to actually deal with happening in their own bodies.
posted by a manly man person who is male and masculine at 9:00 AM on April 1, 2015 [77 favorites]


Ohhh so she didn't do abortion in the right way so therefore she should be in prison for twenty years, gotcha.

The "illegal abortion" part was only 6 years of her sentence, and will run concurrently with the 20 year sentence for child endangerment. Whether or not 6 years is fair, I dunno.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:03 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


She has the right to determine what happens with her uterus or she doesn't. Period.

It's a shame her lawyers made no such argument in court.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:04 AM on April 1, 2015


The "he's a mandatory reporter" thing also suggests the doctor might have thought there was plausibly a liveborn viable-if-preterm infant - what's mandatory to report is abuse of a child, not of a fetus, and his obligation is to call the Child Abuse Hotline, not 911.

Look, I'm just as horrified by the prosecution as anyone else, but this doctor made the right fucking call if he thought there was a viable infant that had been abandoned and might still be alive and on a ticking clock. 911 operates the fastest and gets the fastest response, which for a possible child where minutes might count, seems reasonable. And if he examined her and found the umbilical cord was cut, that's a pretty good sign right there. He was not wrong to call 911 or to be concerned about the baby his medical judgment led him to expect was there.
posted by corb at 9:06 AM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


[ShutterBun, it's fine for you to have made your argument in here but at this point it feels like increasingly like just sort of digging in; probably best to just let it be at this point and if you feel like people disagree or misunderstand your position that's just sort of an okay fact of life on the internet.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:07 AM on April 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


the doctor demonstrably believes that a fetus is a baby - i'm not trusting any part of his judgement and i think it's horrific that women in life or death situations have to.
posted by nadawi at 9:09 AM on April 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's a shame her lawyers made no such argument in court.

Her lawyers shouldn't have had to make such an argument because she shouldn't have been in court in the first place. This isn't a difficult thing to understand.

and will run concurrently with the 20 year sentence for child endangerment

There was no child. So it's a bullshit charge.

The "illegal abortion" part was only 6 years of her sentence, ... Whether or not 6 years is fair, I dunno.

I know! It's not fair. Because... abortion is fucking legal.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:09 AM on April 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is not that case. In my opinion, this woman fucked up, big time. And in doing so, will probably end up making things more difficult for people who need options.

I'm sorry, are you blaming her for the inherent misogyny of the system?

She did not want a baby. She made a choice and she could not act on her choice because the whole of society feels they have more of a say than her on the subject of her uterus. And when she finally got to a doctor, the doctor confirmed her fears by castigating her according to his personal (not professional) opinions and values.
posted by Tarumba at 9:10 AM on April 1, 2015 [22 favorites]


She has the right to determine what happens with her uterus or she doesn't.

I don't fundamentally disagree with this assertion, but this has never actually been the case under the law and I'm not sure it ever will be. This is a bit of a reductio ad absurdum, but taking this as an absolute would give a woman the right to terminate a viable pregnancy at 8.75 months. I'm not so sure I have a big problem with that idea (or even with the notion of fast and painless euthanasia immediately following birth) but I can't imagine it will ever be legal.
posted by slkinsey at 9:11 AM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is a bit of a reductio ad absurdum, but taking this as an absolute would give a woman the right to terminate a viable pregnancy at 8.75 months.

There is (or should be) a difference between what a licensed physician may do to a pregnant woman, what an unlicensed person may do to a pregnant woman, and what a pregnant woman may do to herself.
posted by melissasaurus at 9:16 AM on April 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Sure. Personally, if I could ever become pregnant, if the fetus reached the point of real viability--8.75 months, to use your example--I'd grit my teeth and bear it and sign the adoption papers before they cut the cord.

And I don't have a uterus, so: people who have them get to decide what to do with them, period. No ifs, ands, or buts. I give no fucks if that's law or not.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:17 AM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is such a difficult situation, because there's a big difference between the questions, "Did she break the law?", "If so, should she be convicted?", and, "Should there be laws that make what she has possibly done illegal?" (I'd answer, "Probably", "No, lack of evidence", and "Not to the extant that there currently is.")

Yeah, it looks pretty likely to me that she terminated the pregnancy herself. She was somewhere around 24-weeks of pregnancy, where a surgical procedure in mandatory, lengthy, expensive, and probably denied if they thought the fetus was at all viable. Additionally, coming from a community that shuns abortions or out of wedlock pregnancies, she would clearly like to keep this hidden. Considering her text about taking a pill, especially if it was sent shortly before the fetus was found (I haven't found proof of this, though), would make it seem like she knowingly induced a miscarriage, possibly on a viable fetus. And it seems that terminating a viable pregnancy is where the punishment really increases.

Despite all this, I don't think that there's enough evidence to convict of these crimes. There's no direct evidence that she purchased the pills, or that they were in her system. And miscarriages happen for many unrelated reasons. There's not conclusive evidence that the fetus was viable. This was a conviction found on a certain sense of morality, not evidence. She probably should have been convicted for improper disposal of human waste, but she certainly needs counseling and therapy, rather than punishment, considering what she's gone through.

I can see the reasoning for requiring surgery for second trimester abortions, especially if such abortions have a risk to harm the woman, or a possibility of temporarily producing a viable fetus. But it's seriously problematic if this creates an environment that incentives women to avoid medical care and to hide their abortions. Third trimester abortions get into currently murky territory, a question that has to balance philosophy, biology, and judicial considerations, which is something that Roe v Wade explicitly does not protect.

As it stands, I believe there needs to be a giant revision to the laws. If she committed a crime here, it was a crime due to legal technicalities, and not due to wrongdoing that we need to protect against.
posted by Skephicles at 9:17 AM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Whichever way you slice it, whichever story you believe, what she did was legal.

If she had a live baby and put it in a garbage bag and threw it in a dumpster, then what she did is illegal. Some people may think it should be legal, because she was intending to abort, not have a baby. But nonetheless, the current law in this country says that infanticide is illegal, even infanticide-through-exposure-or-neglect. We are not a culture that allows for leaving unwanted babies on rocks.

And it's not a fetus, because we in our infinite wisdom have decreed that if a fetus is born, it becomes a baby. A fetus is an unborn baby. Once they pass through the vaginal canal and see air, they're a baby. That is just terminology.
posted by corb at 9:18 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


And I mean, I'm with slkinsey - I'm super pro choice, and I'm not sure I even have a problem with quick and painless euthanasia immediately after birth for some circumstances, like severe deformities. But the law in this country does not support that, and if you want it changed, you need to change the law overall.
posted by corb at 9:22 AM on April 1, 2015


we're trying to change the laws. unfortunately one party of our government keeps doing everything in their power to stop us.
posted by nadawi at 9:23 AM on April 1, 2015 [14 favorites]


If she had a live baby and put it in a garbage bag and threw it in a dumpster, then what she did is illegal.

By all means show us the conclusive--or even preponderant (if that's a word)--evidence that what came out of her was a live baby. Not the already-discredited findings of the biased doctor.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:23 AM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


As it stands, I believe there needs to be a giant revision to the laws. If she committed a crime here, it was a crime due to legal technicalities, and not due to wrongdoing that we need to protect against.

Absolutely. It also seems like there was some inappropriate prosecutorial piling-on.
posted by slkinsey at 9:24 AM on April 1, 2015


(I've been asked to bow out of this thread; thanks for the discussion)
posted by ShutterBun at 9:25 AM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


The truth is, without all the religious/political BS behind this issue, we would live in such a world where she could have gone to the doctor as soon as she made her choice and all this would have been avoided. In fact, she probably would have had access to family planning and this might not even happen at all.

If they are so unhappy with the way things occurred, they should be looking at making abortion more accessible and private, not the other way around.

Let me tell you. I come from a country where abortion is illegal. And abortions still happen. In backalley "practices", or performed in the black market if you can afford it. If you can't afford it...coat hangers are pretty cheap.
posted by Tarumba at 9:26 AM on April 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Considering her text about taking a pill, especially if it was sent shortly before the fetus was found (I haven't found proof of this, though), would make it seem like she knowingly induced a miscarriage, possibly on a viable fetus.

From what I found, the miscarriage occurred three days after she took the pills. I don't know if that time frame makes sense for these sorts of drugs or not.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:26 AM on April 1, 2015


taking this as an absolute would give a woman the right to terminate a viable pregnancy at 8.75 months. I'm not so sure I have a big problem with that idea (or even with the notion of fast and painless euthanasia immediately following birth) but I can't imagine it will ever be legal.

In the US, maybe; it's legal (in theory, since in practice no doctor would ever do that) in Canada.
posted by jeather at 9:27 AM on April 1, 2015




It seems like there are at least two (and probably more) injustices running in parallel in this case. The first, and the one getting the most attention, is that it's novel to use a feticide law against a woman who allegedly tried to terminate her own pregnancy. Of course, there's doubt about whether defendant here actually did try to terminate her own pregnancy, but a lot of people (including me) think it's a fucking terrible law that would punish such conduct at all, since it's a violation of the crucial right to bodily self-determination, and because it invites turning doctors, cops, prosecutors, and courts into the miscarriage police, which experience teaches has awful consequences.

The second is that the evidence used to support the charge that her neglect caused the death of an infant that was born alive is remarkably thin and dubious. I don't think most people think that the law that criminalizes neglect that causes a live infant's death is itself wholly unjust (as the feticide law as applied to the pregnant woman is), but the facts in this case just do not seem sufficient to support a conviction.
posted by burden at 9:35 AM on April 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


unfortunately one party of our government keeps doing everything in their power to stop us.

That's an easy thing to say, and it gets a lot of cheers, but the really hard truth is that it's both parties. Yes, the Dems are marginally better on reproductive rights than the Republicans. But that marginally better is not very fucking good. The partial-birth abortion ban, for example, would have been impossible to pass without Democratic support. Dems only get away with being considered good on reproductive health because they can point at Republicans as the boogeyman. Really, both parties suck on this.
posted by corb at 9:39 AM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh come the hell on. Both parties don't suck. The Republicans are actively trying--and succeeding--to ensure that women cannot have autonomy over their own bodies. The Democrats aren't. This 'both sides' horseshit needs to die
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:41 AM on April 1, 2015 [26 favorites]


Thanks fffm, I couldn't figure out what drug she used before. From what I read about it up to 72 hours is possible, but definitely a really slim minority of cases. It definitely weakens how I felt about the text messages earlier, it was my perception at the time that the messages about taking the pills and losing the baby were on the same day.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:43 AM on April 1, 2015


The partial-birth abortion ban was over a decade ago, and Democrats opposing it outnumbered those supporting it by 2-to-1 in both chambers. The challenge at SCOTUS came down across politically ideological lines. The states passing more restrictive anti-choice laws are mainly or entirely run by Republicans.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:45 AM on April 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


wanna take a gander at which party has introduced more of the 235 bills against reproductive rights since january? or which party takes more money from anti-choice groups? or which party actively pushes anti-choice as part of their platform? democrats aren't innocent in this but the republicans absolutely have far more blood on their hands.
posted by nadawi at 9:46 AM on April 1, 2015 [21 favorites]


Oh, and prior attempts to pass a ban were vetoed by a President who was a Democrat.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:47 AM on April 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


The states passing more restrictive anti-choice laws are mainly or entirely run by Republicans.

Sure. I'm not arguing that Democrats often opppose Republican shit so that they can look good on reproductive health. But if it was split down party lines, and Democrats were actually genuinely trying for full reproductive decisions as more than just ways to cynically turn out women to vote for them, why aren't Democrat-controlled states womens' paradises? I've lived in Democrat-controlled states, and they still had parental notification for abortions, lack of birth control assistance in schools, etc.
posted by corb at 9:49 AM on April 1, 2015


She is a victim of injustice because abortion is legal. She is a victim of injustice because miscarriages are legal. Whichever way you slice it, whichever story you believe, what she did was legal. Why is this so difficult to understand?

So many things make sense once you start from the basic truth that no one regards women as fully human. She isn't a real person, therefore she doesn't have the right to make real person decisions. Observe this thread, in which people are going to great lengths to argue that their personal feelings should have any bearing at all on the medical decisions of strangers.

Jesus fuck I'm glad that there's no way I can get pregnant unless I'm assaulted and in that case I have the resources to take care of the problem if it arose. Also time to start deleting my text messages because God help me if someone read any of my morbid jokes and made a case I was a serial killer rolling on massive lines of coke. Apparently the facts that I don't kill people and can be proved never to have taken a drug stronger than Mountain Dew would be insufficient to save me from prison.
posted by winna at 9:51 AM on April 1, 2015 [22 favorites]


because the white supremacist patriarchy is a hell of a drug.
posted by nadawi at 9:51 AM on April 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


I don't think corb is saying that Democrats are just as bad, but rather as a consequence of the US's two party system, it is in the interest of the less-radical party to appear just slightly more moderate than the more extreme candidate, so they can be the "least bad" option between the two for the most people. I'd be willing to believe that the Democratic party is comprised of a mix of people that genuinely want to improve reproductive rights, and people that are willing to play the game, but do as little as possible, as a solved issue is one where they can no longer campaign for votes.
posted by Skephicles at 9:51 AM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Amanda Allen, state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, told RH Reality Check that the election of GOP majorities in state legislatures and Republican governors during the 2010 midterms are largely responsible for the wave of anti-choice legislation, despite the fact that abortion rights were not a major political factor during those campaigns.

“That election was not a referendum on reproductive health and on abortion,” Allen said. “But we’re still seeing the impacts of those elections today.”
posted by nadawi at 9:55 AM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thanks, Skephicles, for phrasing that better than I was.
posted by corb at 9:55 AM on April 1, 2015


[We have had a great many go arounds previously of the "yeah but both sides" US two party system argument, let's please not throw another throwdown about that on top of all the difficult stuff that's more directly topical to the post.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:55 AM on April 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I haven't read every last single word. I have been skimming this morning, but it looks to me like this has not been touched on:

This woman is from a very conservative culture. She was still living with her parents. She is described as "having an affair" with a coworker. I am not clear if the coworker was married. If the coworker was not married, then it really shouldn't even be framed as "an affair."

This is a space I have done a lot of reading on in the past and done a lot of thinking about. I came from a very conservative household and was also sexually abused as a child.

She apparently comes from a situation where it is simply not okay at all to have sexual and emotional needs (with regards to romance/attention/that sort of thing) and there is no acceptable means to get her needs met. It is an environment where women are basically the playthings of men and then it is women, not men, who are held responsible for morality part of it.

It is an environment where there are huge practical and psychological barriers to even seeking birth control. You don't see this so much in Europe, but one of the things that goes on in America is that religious or socially conservative young women will forego birth control because taking birth control means they planned to have sex and that makes them a "slut," but if they were swept away in the moment and it "just happened" because they are in love, then somehow that is okay. The obvious result, backed up by data I have seen, is that conservative, judgey cultures fail to stamp out human need for emotional and sexual intimacy but they do succeed in beating people down psychologically such that the result is a higher incidence of unwanted, out-of-wedlock pregnancy in the worst circumstances possible.

If you do not take those things into account when viewing how this went down, yeah, sure, it looks bad that she dumped the fetus in a dumpster. In her shoes, the best case scenario is that problem just goes away an no one ever knows she was pregnant. This is most likely why she did not seek medical care sooner.

Please realize that if she was living with her judgey parents who did not approve of her having a sexuality at all, much less a sex life (and much much less using birth control while not married), it can be extremely hard to hide things like visits to a doctor and use of birth control. Furthermore, if she was living there, she was financially dependent upon them to some degree. Being thrown out has very significant consequences. Trying to keep being a good employee while homeless is very challenging, so the threat of getting thrown out when she was probably not in any position to support herself was likely extremely threatening.

So the threat of being thrown out is one that is potentially ruinous and can potentially lead to starvation, being assaulted and raped while living on the street, and being in a very poor position for trying to start life over and get your act together.

Laws are written by human beings. They grow out of our thoughts, our beliefs, our education system, our culture. Currently, an awful lot of women are living with a level of condemnation and disempowerment that actively pushes them into doing things with negative consequences for which they will be judged. Simply being female means it is not really okay in the minds of a great many people to get your sexual needs met. We charge prostitutes with a crime. We rarely charge their customers with one. It is almost universal that people think that it is okay for a man to purchase sexual services but not okay for a woman to sell her sexual services.

Somehow, we need to work on this cultural piece. These laws will not go away until these attitudes go away. These attitudes are far more problematic than the laws that grow out of them. Even if you don't get thrown in jail for the things that grow out of this situation, you are tortured and punished in myriad other ways for the crime of being a woman who happens to have a sexuality.
posted by Michele in California at 10:27 AM on April 1, 2015 [43 favorites]


Re the "we can't give women free rein or they'll abort at 8.75 months" thing, there are many ways aside from criminalizing abortion that you could avoid that.

1. Realize that most (as in, 99%) women are not idiots. We of all people understand that waiting an extra week would be easier than a late term abortion at 8.75 weeks. Give us some fucking credit for knowing how our own bodies work, ok? We don't need men to do the hard thinking for us on this issue because we have puny lady brains. Nor are we psychopathic monsters longing to destroy our nearly-term fetuses for no particular reason. We are reasonable beings, just like men!

2. Realize that the only women likely to need such a thing are those whose pregnancy is already doomed (and who should already be in medical care) and ensure that they are, in fact, getting that care.

3. Realizing that any other woman who was for some reason seeking an abortion at 8.75 months is dealing with some serious shit, either abuse/trauma or mental health issues, and therefore should also be getting protection and/or care for those things, and to get them through the birth (because that is probably the safest course at this stage) and beyond.

4. Teach doctors how to respectfully deal with these situations.

Remarkably absent from this list: imprisonment. Imprisonment does nothing in this situation but ruin lives. It does nothing to address the needs of women who seek abortion, and is therefore nothing but an act of cruelty. It keeps women in the status of not-quite-human because we have only partial rights over our own bodies, that can be revoked at any time and for a multitude of reasons.

Instead of this hand-wringing about something some pregnant woman somewhere might do with her dangerous, dangerous freedom, give us our freedom and then we can all work together on dealing with whatever ethical issues arise.
posted by emjaybee at 10:35 AM on April 1, 2015 [67 favorites]


What's worrying about this case, and the scores and scores of other cases prosecuted around the country in the last 5 years, is that the very act of becoming pregnant in the united states means that a pregnant woman's rights are immediately subjugated to those of the parasitic zygote.

Here's the thing, if she had gone to the hospital with bleeding, she still would have been investigated, and probably still charged with diy abortion...because she was charged with that, and got 6 years sentence for it.

If she'd been rich enough to pony up the two grand, and take some time off work and family, she'd be golden.

Indiana is an expensive place to get an abortion. As well, if she didn't know she was pregnant until after the 11th week, she would have to go to a specialized clinic, and that's even more pricey.

You can only get "medical" or abortion drugs prescribed for the initial 6 weeks of the pregnancy. After that, surgical abortion is the only option. After of course, you've done the mandated exam, and mandatory shaming...er, waiting period.

If she was 20 weeks pregnant or more, there is no provider in IN that will provide that service on demand.

Let's not mistake this case for anything other than what it is; a chance to brutally punish a young woman for not following the rules she may not have even understood.
posted by dejah420 at 12:06 PM on April 1, 2015 [25 favorites]


Remarkably absent from this list: imprisonment. Imprisonment does nothing in this situation but ruin lives.

Yes, nearly everyone ought to be able to agree on this. Even anti-abortion activists mostly do not want to see women prosecuted, but only abortion providers.

That stance is complicated of course by the availability of drugs that can be self-administered. Here's another story of a woman who ended up in about the same situation as Purvi Patel. Jennie McCormack lived in Idaho and had limited access to legal abortion; she ordered RU-486 online and took it herself.

However in McCormack's case a circuit court judge ruled that she could not be criminally prosecuted (see here also).
posted by torticat at 12:08 PM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Good lord, as further proof that women are nothing but vessels to the Anti-Choicers, dig the image at the top of the American Association of Pro-Life OBGYNs provider directory.


The woman's head has been cut off. Why? Because the woman is a non-essential part of their fetish.
posted by dejah420 at 12:24 PM on April 1, 2015 [20 favorites]


In most cases misoprostol will have an effect within 4 hours

This, in conjunction with the lack of any physical evidence of it ever being taken is pretty damming evidence it didn't happen, no?

I'm just completely amazed this charge stuck at this point. I mean, I'm not, but I am.

I don't understand how anyone sees this as anything but farcical at this point. I just seriously cannot understand it.
posted by emptythought at 12:40 PM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Even anti-abortion activists mostly do not want to see women prosecuted, but only abortion providers.

What makes you think this? If anti-abortion activists believe abortion is murder, why wouldn't they view the woman getting an abortion as a murderer?

If this were the case, why would there be laws on the books criminalizing induced abortions? No, those laws got passed because anti-abortion activists lobbied hard to get them passed.

I'm sure there are 'moderate' or 'reasonable' anti-abortion activists, but there are plenty of fanatics who get state legislatures to criminalize women's attempts to control their own bodies (and also mandate state-sponsored rape of women; inserting objects into them against their will). And those fanatics are the ones who are winning.
posted by el io at 12:40 PM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Even anti-abortion activists mostly do not want to see women prosecuted, but only abortion providers.

I doubt it. I've posted several times here about the case of Rep. Scott DesJarlais. I'm not going to re-quote the article, so the tl;dr is that DesJarlais, who would otherwise be your run-of-the-mill "traditional marriage" and antichoice GOP member, not only "encouraged" his then-wife to have two abortions, but had no less than six affairs and did the same thing with one of his mistresses. This was among other ethical violations such as improperly prescribing medicines. His constituents punished him by re-electing him. Twice. He has suffered no real backlash either in his state or by federal antichoice organizations. As a matter of fact, the National Right To Life Committee gives him a 100% rating. Rather unsurprisingly, he was never stripped of his spot on one of the subcommittees related to health.

So, as the linked article states, if those activists actually believed that abortion is murder, they've decided that what was basically conspiracy to commit it is no disqualification to holding public office, let alone an actual crime. That--combined with the relatively high number of people (~20%) who believe that not even rape, incest, or other circumstances are extenuating--indicates that the movement itself is built on largely cynical and tribal (in the political sense) views on reproductive rights. It's pretty hard to believe that it's largely about anything other punishing women for "improper" sex, even when it's not consensual.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:15 PM on April 1, 2015 [15 favorites]


Anti-choice legislation is so unremittingly, nonsensically punitive, so unconcerned with medical facts or data, and so cruelly deficient in anything that would make it easier for any woman to give birth, cherish and raise a child (the purported aim of the "pro-life" movement) that any claim of care for the woman's welfare cannot be taken seriously. Or even for the child's. There is nothing to such legislation but punishment and increasing the woman's suffering.
posted by emjaybee at 1:24 PM on April 1, 2015 [22 favorites]


It's not just direct action from antichoicers, either. For all their concern about the health of mothers and children (unborn or not), you'd expect that they'd be all about expanding those services. And yet, in places like Alabama, many women have to drive more than 50 miles to give birth. That kind of inaction can be just as bad or worse in terms of punitive effects, and yet NRLC and other groups are spending more time complaining (and often lying) about birth control and abortifacent drugs while women, especially lower-income women, are suffering.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:34 PM on April 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence...One, after all, cannot prove a negative.

2/3 of the Meaningless Epistemological Cliche Hat Trick!
posted by busted_crayons at 1:38 PM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Scott County, Indiana, the center of an exploding HIV outbreak, has been without an HIV testing center since early 2013, when the sole provider -- a Planned Parenthood clinic -- was forced to close its doors. The clinic did not offer abortion services.

The Scott County clinic and four other Planned Parenthood facilities in the state, all of which provided HIV testing and information, have shuttered since 2011, in large part due to funding cuts to the state's public health infrastructure. Those cuts came amid a national and local political campaign to demonize the health care provider. Now, the state is scrambling to erect pop-up clinics to combat an unprecedented HIV epidemic caused by intravenous drug use."

"For those who are H.I.V. positive, case managers have been assigned on the spot to help arrange counseling and treatment. But most have not started treatment yet, partly because the closest H.I.V. clinic is in Louisville, Ky., about 35 miles south of here.

“Our first three, we had appointments for them at the Louisville clinic, and to a person, none of them showed up,” said Dr. Kevin Burke, the public health officer who oversees H.I.V. testing in the region. “That may be fatalism. But at the same time, this population doesn’t have reliable transportation.”"

But hey, they really care about babies and health care and people and stuff.
posted by rtha at 1:42 PM on April 1, 2015 [14 favorites]


Even anti-abortion activists mostly do not want to see women prosecuted, but only abortion providers.

20 years ago I might have agreed with this but I can't say this would be true in the majority of cases today. Antiabortion activism barely touches providers (aside from when it gets them murdered, of course), its primary target is absolutely people who want to terminate their pregnancies. Those people, in their eyes, must be punished in any way possible, whether through expense, bureaucracy, outright medical abuse, or, as we now see, imprisonment.

Gynecologists and other doctors who provide abortions do not lose their ability to continue practicing medicine if abortion is outlawed or made legally inconvenient. Their lives are barely affected. The disgusting laws currently plaguing uterus-having americans are directly targeting them, not the providers.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:42 PM on April 1, 2015 [18 favorites]


In most cases misoprostol will have an effect within 4 hours

So just because apparently nobody else has on here has had medical management of a miscarriage: no, that's really not how it works, at all.

You will start to get symptoms in four hours, in most cases (but not all! Only about 60% of people). You then start bleeding. The bleeding can go on for a while - days to weeks. Five weeks, in my case, and I was only six weeks pregnant. If you're more than 8-10 weeks, it's like a mini-labour. At 25 weeks or whatever she was, it will have been full-blown labour, which as most people know can last for days, especially if you're a primip. I see no reason whatsoever to question a three-day gap between taking the tablets and delivering the baby - I'd be really surprised if it had been much quicker.

I'm strongly pro-abortion and do not think she should have been jailed (she'd get psych input over here), but in no country in the world would a diy 20+ week abortion be a-ok nothing to see here. I'm really surprised that some of you seem to think it should be. It isn't about the fetus, I'd be just as appalled by a home appendicectomy.
posted by tinkletown at 2:00 PM on April 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think she could have licked a pill and said ew gross.

Also, I don't think anyone here thinks that it was A-OK she had a self induced home abortion.

I think the majority of us wish that circumstances were such that she had proper societal and medical support to prevent her pregnancy in the first place as well as to end it when it was unwanted.

This woman was literally afraid to tell doctors why she was bleeding so badly.

I don't think she wanted an at home 25 week abortion either. She felt she had no other options. And now the legal system is telling her that yep, she was right to be afraid.
posted by sio42 at 2:16 PM on April 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


Yeah, abortion laws are actually much stricter in most of Europe than in the USA, but also much less controversial and very available. An illegal (self-)abortion would get you nowhere near 6 years in Germany though. IIRC the last case in the news ended with a minor fine. I'm not even sure if the woman got a suspended sentence.

Infanticide by neglect which is what the prosecution seems to have successfully claimed this to have been on top of that (???*) used to get not very harsh sentences until the mid to late 90th here (mostly probabtion, or 2-5 years at most) but this has changed since then. The law which made infanticide a very minor form of homicide (because of migitating factors for women under duress) was repealed and you will read about actuall manslaughter or life sentences more often now (10-30 years range).

*That the prosecution in Patels's case got convictions for seemingly mutually exclusive crimes is rather strange.
posted by ZeroAmbition at 2:21 PM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I see no reason whatsoever to question a three-day gap between taking the tablets and delivering the baby - I'd be really surprised if it had been much quicker.

In a randomized clinical trial of women being given misoprostol for a second trimester termination, the oral misoprostol group completed their abortions in an average of 31 hours (+/- 14.4 hours) from the initial dose of medication. I can't figure out why she would take the pills orally at all; the standard for a misoprostol 2nd trimester abortion is to administer them vaginally, because it works faster and takes lower doses.
posted by KathrynT at 2:39 PM on April 1, 2015


She may really not have known how far along she was.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:44 PM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


in no country in the world would a diy 20+ week abortion be a-ok nothing to see here. I'm really surprised that some of you seem to think it should be. It isn't about the fetus, I'd be just as appalled by a home appendicectomy.

Well, there's appalled by someone who feels the need to DIY their medical care and "therefore it should be illegal", which doesn;t fikkiw,
posted by jeather at 2:50 PM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


She is described as "having an affair" with a coworker. I am not clear if the coworker was married. If the coworker was not married, then it really shouldn't even be framed as "an affair."

He was married, for whatever that's worth.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:00 PM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't figure out why she would take the pills orally at all; the standard for a misoprostol 2nd trimester abortion is to administer them vaginally, because it works faster and takes lower doses.

I think it's possible she bought Abortion Drugs online that were something else, or else completely ineffective.
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 3:11 PM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Drinky Die, Thanks. That link is not readable for me for some reason. It is all blanked out. (Not a big deal. Just an FYI.)

But that information -- that he was married -- just makes me take a big deep Sigh. Because married man has affair, unmarried girlfriend of his goes through hell and is then thrown in jail. AND I bet nothing has happened to him.

It's just more of the same ole same ole like I said above: Men are allowed to get their sexual needs met, then women get punished for it. We do this in myriad ways. Insurance often pays for Viagra but not birth control pills. When I commented on that years ago in a different forum, people couldn't even comprehend my point. They just kind of dismissed it as "well, sorry your insurance company won't cover your pills, but it is irrelevant and not evidence of any kind of broader societal anything."

It was really frustrating. I was a military wife at the time. My pills absolutely were covered by the military benefits. In fact, they were free. I didn't even have a co-pay.

But I was dismissed as some bitter woman making crazy-assed sweeping generalizations because of some petty dispute with my insurance company, and not taken seriously as a woman who had read a lot about women's issues and thought a lot about such things and concluded that there is something deeply wrong with a society where old men who can't get it up without chemical help are entitled to sex but young women who are presumably sleeping with a man that they need birth control are literally and figuratively expected to pay for it. It's quite vengeful, in fact. It is incredibly hostile to women in a very deep way.

And then some men wonder why the hell a lot of women don't want to put out. Well, you know, the cost of putting out is sometimes just a tad too high.
Jebus.

I can't figure out why she would take the pills orally at all;

Some folks just don't have access to the kind of info you have. They don't read at the level you read. They don't know where to get the studies you routinely cite. They wouldn't understand them if they did know where to find them.

If you are hiding a pregnancy from judgey conservative parents that you still live with and are probably pretending you are still a virgin, you aren't exactly in a good position to go looking for tons of objective data on how to abort the baby you are pretending does not exist. It is not a circumstance conducive to reading online studies all day long on the computer or going to the library and bringing home a stack of books on the subject. In fact, it is a situation that is very unconducive to thoroughly exploring your alternatives -- even assuming she otherwise would be able to find and understand medical studies, something a lot of people really can't do, even sometimes very smart people with a significant vested interest.
posted by Michele in California at 3:15 PM on April 1, 2015 [16 favorites]


That last word was intended to be "follow".
posted by jeather at 3:16 PM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, I don't think anyone here thinks that it was A-OK she had a self induced home abortion.

The only way in which I think that isn't A-OK is that it was her only choice, it seems.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:25 PM on April 1, 2015


To be clear, i don't think it's ok she did because i don't think she should have to. Getting an abortion should be like getting your teeth cleaned. Call and make an appointment over the phone, go in and maybe sign a couple forms, go in to the back and get it done, fill out some more forms at the counter and leave.

She should not be punished for doing this at home in the same way that people should not be punished for putting off going to the doctor when they're uninsured. There didn't seem to be any other reasonable option and when things went wrong there wasn't really anything else to be done.

I'm employed and live on my own, and if i needed to come up with $2000+(and from comments here, it seems like it could be double that) it would take me months. I might even have to sign up for another credit card and max it out for part of the bill if that was even an option payment wise at the place doing the surgical procedure.

When i lived with my mom, even $1000 was a lot of money. And i had a job. I saved up for basically an entire year to buy a new laptop for a bit less than that. I could have maybe shaved a few months off that if i was saving every spare dollar i had, and tips, and everything.

It's one of those things where it's like, if you don't want to people to do something non optimal, give them a better option. Just because there is theoretically an above board option out there doesn't mean there's any way for a lot of people to realistically use it.

The more i reflect on this, the more it feels like this is bending over backwards to punish her for not playing the game. For not being shamed, and doing the ultrasound and waiting period and all that garbage. She did it on her own terms because that was the only way it could work out, and that really pissed some people off from the doctor on up.
posted by emptythought at 3:35 PM on April 1, 2015 [13 favorites]


The only way in which I think that isn't A-OK is that it was her only choice, it seems.

Agreed. It is completely terrible that someone would be put in a position where a DIY medical procedure is their only option, but there is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with someone attempting to perform a DIY medical procedure on themself. Anyone who thinks that a DIY abortion should be illegal hopefully also thinks that the dude who famously amputated his own arm while hiking should be prosecuted for mayhem.

In fact, anyone who even uses the word "feticide" seriously had better be a strict fucking vegetarian.
posted by busted_crayons at 3:39 PM on April 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


In fact, anyone who even uses the word "feticide" seriously had better be a strict fucking vegetarian.

Vegan.

(No eggs. K?)
posted by Michele in California at 3:41 PM on April 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm appalled that she wasn't able to get medical care without a ton of bullshit.

I'm appalled that her parents were so unsympathetic she couldn't get help from them.

I'm appalled that yet again being a woman is a game we're intended to lose and people are perfectly okay with that.

As far as her decisions, I've been poor and had parents who would've made my life more hell than it was already if I'd got pregnant. I would probably have done something similar in her case. If I'd gotten pregnant it would have ruined my life. No exaggeration. I would have been better dead and if I couldn't abort I'd've killed myself.

There are a lot of people in this thread who seem to think that her circumstances were merely inconvenient instead of being a life-destroying catastrophe. I hope, quite earnestly, they are never desperate enough to understand what was at stake for this young woman.
posted by winna at 3:48 PM on April 1, 2015 [23 favorites]


What makes you think this? If anti-abortion activists believe abortion is murder, why wouldn't they view the woman getting an abortion as a murderer?

I think many of them believe a woman having an abortion is a woman in desperate circumstances and that is a mitigating factor. Whereas providers, they think, are only in it for the money.

That, and/or you could see it as a cynical stance because advocating for the prosecution/imprisonment of women who've terminated a pregnancy is a PR disaster.

I won't link to lifenews.com here but: below is a quote from an article covering a 2014 talk given by David O'Steen, (then?) exec director of the National Right to Life Council. He was explaining why NRLC does not advocate for fetuses to be granted "personhood" status under law:

He said this is partially because their attorneys say it may have no effect on abortion law, and because it could prohibit some forms of birth control, could prohibit in-vitro-fertilization, and possibly subject women to prosecution for murder who have abortions.
posted by torticat at 4:53 PM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Despite all this, I don't think that there's enough evidence to convict of these crimes. There's no direct evidence that she purchased the pills

There is; she texted with her friend about buying them for $72 from an online pharmacy. There are search records looking for the pills on her iPad. And there's an emailed receipt from the pharmacy to her email address. Lastly, there's texts from her to her friend saying she took the pill. I don't think there's any reasonable doubt as to whether she actually took the pill, the question is solely whether or not she should have been charged with crimes in the first place.

Of course if I were on the jury I'd be tempted to find her not guilty of that charge simply because of the bullshit of charging her with the felony child neglect. Putting someone in jail for 20 years based on voodoo is a travesty, and that's leaving aside the fact that she shouldn't have been charged with it in the first place.

But I don't think there's much question she searched out, bought, and took the meds.
posted by Justinian at 5:03 PM on April 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've spent a lot of time seriously looking into getting drugs illegally over the internet for various reasons (ridiculously high co-pays, my insurance making me jump through hoops for drugs I was legitimately prescribed and expecting me to pay $700 a month for them, etc). I never went for it because it never turned out to be the most practical course of action, but the drugs I was looking at doing that with were mostly pretty common ones. I know a lot of people who've ordered online when they were unable to get certain drugs because of prejudicial gatekeepers who don't know shit about their needs. In neither of those circumstances were we under the kind of strict time constraints that you're to be under for an abortion, and having one of those done can be super fucking expensive, depending on your insurance and where you are.

Basically what I am saying is I have a lot of sympathy for anyone who feels like the most practical course of action that they have is to order pills that they legitimately need but are having a hard time getting in time off of the internet. Our medical system is seriously fucking broken, and she was additionally dealing with it being broken because of institutionalized misogyny and institutionalized racism. This feels like she's just getting punished for getting in the crosshairs of a lot of conservative bullshit and a broken medical system (which is largely broken because of conservative bullshit), and her case is one that makes me feel, as someone with a uterus, way less safe seeking medical care, both because I know that people think that this was legal and because I know that there are people who think this is actually just.
posted by NoraReed at 5:12 PM on April 1, 2015 [14 favorites]


if you went by my ipad searches, txt messages, emails, and gchat you would believe that i am meticulously planning an assassination of a central asian political figure with my fantastically well-dressed gay assassin lover instead of doing excruciatingly in-depth background research for an arthur/eames fanfic while sitting on the couch eating microwave breakfast burritos for dinner.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:24 PM on April 1, 2015 [17 favorites]


I have never been in law enforcement, but when I processed insurance claims for five years, part of my job was referring claims to the fraud department for further investigation. So, as part of that job, it was drilled into me that some forms of evidence are a lot stronger than others and, in fact, one piece of very strong evidence can overturn multiple pieces of weaker evidence. (This was also true for the purpose of determining which benefits to pay.)

Text messages are more like hearsay. They look damn weak to me compared to blood tests showing she had no drugs in her system. Even if you can prove she bought the drugs, that doesn't prove she took them.

I am reminded of a trial where a collector of vintage stuff was being tried for making moonshine because he had the equipment. He suggested that, based on that metric, they should also charge him with rape since he had the equipment for that too.

This whole thing is really ridiculous. A scared and trapped woman got pregnant because of choices made by both her and a man. He is probably exempt from any consequences. She is in jail, probably in part because he wouldn't have wanted to admit to being the father since he was married to someone else.

Sorry, I think that is just a shitty societal standard. Why isn't he being charged for some crime here? His choice to sleep with her is a big part of why this debacle happened. Why are we ready to hang her high but barely anything is being said about him? JFC.

We do this all the time. It really, really sucks. Men are allowed to have "fun" and walk away and leave a woman with a huge mess, not his problem. I don't know what the solution is, but I am damn sure that part of the problem is that most of this discussion has been about her choices and not about their choices. Why are we not hitting the roof about him fucking a woman other than his wife and NOT either getting a vasectomy beforehand or consistently using condoms? Why do we have these conversations where we act like birth control is solely a women's issue? That's bullshit. If two women fuck, they don't knock each other up. Unintended pregnancy only happens when a man gets involved.

The whole thought process with which problems like this gets approached is completely ate up.

/rant
posted by Michele in California at 6:36 PM on April 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


The Infanticide Act 1922: effectively abolished the death penalty for a woman who deliberately killed her new born child

IOW, Indiana is damn near a century less civilized than the UK.

…20 years is a gift.

I can't even. So many expletives.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:39 PM on April 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


Sweet Jesus. The words from people who purportedly claim to be super pro-choice caused me to literally (in the literal sense of the word) scream aloud in anger and frustration. Just holy fuck fuck me wtfbbq, I need to go punch something now.

Bring on the asteroid. Humanity deserves to be extinguished. Fuckeverything.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:51 PM on April 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Emily Bazelon has a pretty good roundup of the case and similar ones, along with some background, in the NYTMagazine.

She discusses the "sharply contested" question of whether the fetus/baby was born alive. Then she says,
Whatever happened to Patel and her baby at the point of delivery, it’s hard to imagine that either the prosecution or the judge at sentencing would have come down as hard on her if they weren’t sure she’d tried to induce her own illegal abortion.

Which is true. The feticide charge was the lesser of the two, yet the second charge, which carried the draconian sentence, really relied upon the first. What a mess of a case. I hope Patel's appeal is speedy and successful.
posted by torticat at 8:03 PM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hey MiC, looking back on it the article I linked that you can't see actually says this:

Purvi Patel couldn’t reveal her pregnancy because the father was a married man going through a divorce, her former best friend testified Wednesday.

I'm not sure how that plays into the use of "affair" being correct or not. Does it mean he is currently going through a divorce or that he was going through a divorce already at the time of their relationship? And does that even matter? (I know this was only a minor part of your comment, but just thought I should make it clear I missed some of the detail when I answered it since you can't see the article.)
posted by Drinky Die at 8:13 PM on April 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


augh I really am not excited about analyzing the marital status of the dude that knocked her up because frankly the misogynistic moralizing about her is enough without that shitty dimension of gross added
posted by NoraReed at 8:17 PM on April 1, 2015 [15 favorites]


Emily Bazelon has a pretty good roundup of the case and similar ones, along with some background, in the NYTMagazine.

A small derail: why is "Dumpster" capitalized throughout the article? Is dumpster actually a brand?
posted by Going To Maine at 8:21 PM on April 1, 2015


why is "Dumpster" capitalized throughout the article? Is dumpster actually a brand?

Yep:
The word is a genericized trademark of Dumpster, an American brand name for a type of mobile garbage bin. Generic usage of dumpster is also common in Australia, although Dumpster is not an established brand there.
posted by Etrigan at 8:24 PM on April 1, 2015


Huh, I had no idea.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:27 PM on April 1, 2015


if you went by my ipad searches, txt messages, emails, and gchat you would believe that i am meticulously planning an assassination of a central asian political figure with my fantastically well-dressed gay assassin lover instead of doing excruciatingly in-depth background research for an arthur/eames fanfic while sitting on the couch eating microwave breakfast burritos for dinner.

If you searched how to kill a central asian political figure with your gay assassin lover, texted someone you had sent your gay assassin lover to kill that figure, and then the central asian political figure was assassinated by a well dressed gay man two days later I would indeed believe that, and would probably convict you.
posted by Justinian at 10:43 PM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm a rebel who flouts the law so I'm going to continue writing "dumpster".
posted by Justinian at 10:55 PM on April 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think there's any reasonable doubt as to whether she actually took the pill

Wait, weren't we just going over earlier in the thread that there was no trace of the pill in her system or the fetus?

I think Michelle above is making a pretty good point on this. Saying you did something isn't shit, even if you had it, when there's no other proof you actually did it except for you saying it. It's exactly the same as you saying you didn't do it when there's no other proof.

The text messages are only damning evidence if you want them to be.
posted by emptythought at 1:08 AM on April 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't think there's any reasonable doubt as to whether she actually took the pill

Wait, weren't we just going over earlier in the thread that there was no trace of the pill in her system or the fetus?


Yes, and even if she took some pill, we don't know what those pills were, and likely she doesn't either. Even assuming her texts are true - all that says is that she ordered some sort of pill on the internet that purported to be some sort of abortifacient and that she took said pill. For all we know the pill was actually asprin or contained none of the ingredients specified on the label.

There is no evidence that what she actually took was an abortifacient.
posted by melissasaurus at 4:22 AM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Maybe she thought he would leave his wife and look after her and the baby and that's why she waited so long. We just don't know her story
posted by asok at 4:28 AM on April 2, 2015


From the Department of Your Bodies, Their Selves: Nashville Prosecutors Reportedly Offered Women Plea Bargains in Exchange For Sterilization
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:55 AM on April 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


Wait, weren't we just going over earlier in the thread that there was no trace of the pill in her system or the fetus?

I think the relevance of this has been overstated in this thread. The drugs in question can't be detected by blood tests after 24-48 hours.

Also, I believe it's known what the medication was that she ordered.

From the indictment:
According to Dr. McGuire, one of those drugs that PURVI PATEL admitted taking would induce labor, thereby ending her pregnancy. The other drug was designed to end the life of a fetus, but only if it was within nine (9) weeks old.

(Pretty sure those would be misoprostol and mifepristone respectively.)

The three-day gap between the pill-taking and the actual passing of the pregnancy is not unusual either, as the process involves taking the mifepristone and then following up with misoprostol anywhere from a few hours to 48 hours later (instructions vary).

She said she ordered the pills, she said they arrived, she said they tasted like shit and she hoped they worked, she said she'd lost the baby. I guess I don't see the need to try to poke holes in the pretty solid case that she took the pills. Does it matter? Does it really have an impact on whether she should be sitting in jail the next 20 years?
posted by torticat at 9:00 AM on April 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


> If you searched how to kill a central asian political figure with your gay assassin lover, texted someone you had sent your gay assassin lover to kill that figure, and then the central asian political figure was assassinated by a well dressed gay man two days later I would indeed believe that, and would probably convict you.

But that's not an accurate parallel. It's more like the central asian political figure had a family history of poor health, and died of indeterminable natural causes with no specific signs of foul play, while the well-dressed gay man was in another country. And wearing shabby clothes besides.
posted by desuetude at 9:18 AM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


But that's not an accurate parallel. It's more like the central asian political figure had a family history of poor health, and died of indeterminable natural causes with no specific signs of foul play, while the well-dressed gay man was in another country. And wearing shabby clothes besides.

Why? (I mean, I feel like these analogies are getting more & more tortured, regardless of what actually happened.)
posted by Going To Maine at 9:38 AM on April 2, 2015


weren't we just going over earlier in the thread that there was no trace of the pill in her system or the fetus?

I think shows like CSI tend to lead people to overestimate the amount of things that can be traced with razor precision, particularly on small budgets.
posted by corb at 9:39 AM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thanks Drinky Die for the clarification.

As for evidence: Things like convicting people of murder typically hinge on a standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, and not on a standard of the preponderance of the evidence.

When you want to throw someone in jail for the next 20 years or more -- which amounts to taking away the best part of their life in most cases -- this country has a history of saying "Yeah, we want to be particularly confident that you really did the thing we are locking you up for." And this case doesn't follow that tradition. It looks like a witch hunt. We are positing a plausible scenario and throwing the book at her rather than proving with a high degree of certainty that this went down a certain way.

Re the status of the man: First, let's be clear that I am not for throwing this woman in jail. But if we are going to bring back the Spanish Inquisition, hey, then let's throw the daddy in jail with her as an "accessory" or something. Because a) there would have been no fetus to begin with if a man had not had sex with her -- women do not bud spontaneously or something -- and b) the odds are really high that her desire to abort the baby is rooted in the fact that he wasn't really available to marry her and raise a child with her and the odds are also really high that either he told her at some point "not my problem" when her pregnancy came up in discussion or he said things to her in the course of sleeping with her that made it clear that he would take no responsibility if she turned up pregnant, so she never bothered to tell him because she already knew what his position was.

In a nutshell: I have all kinds of hatred for men who feel entitled to get laid and take no responsibility for the situation if the result is a child. I feel real strongly that if a man really, really doesn't want that kind of complication, then he should go get a vasectomy. Birth control should not be framed as just a women's issue. It takes a man and a woman to make a baby. Part of the reason this woman is in jail is that society as a whole frames such situations as all her fault/responsibility and not partly her responsibility and partly his.

We aren't going to stop seeing shit like this unless and until society as a whole deeply believes that a baby is equally the responsibility of both parents. As long as most of the world feels that sex for men is just play-time and when a baby results it is the woman's problem, we are going to continue to put women like Ms. Patel in desperate straits and then crucify them for not having some magic "correct" solution (that basically doesn't exist).
posted by Michele in California at 11:43 AM on April 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


There is no evidence that what she actually took was an abortifacient.

There's some of the best evidence there is; the fetus was aborted.
posted by Justinian at 11:50 AM on April 2, 2015


I think the gay fashionista assassin analogy has probably played out its usefulness at this point. But it was fabulous.
posted by Justinian at 11:52 AM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm really tired of arguing this. It just really makes me deeply emotionally exhausted to listen to men say a woman deserves to go to prison for many years because we have incontrovertible evidence that she miscarried.

Imma gonna just leave this link here and walk away for a bit:

New Fiction: Your Life Sentence
posted by Michele in California at 12:12 PM on April 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


She said she ordered the pills, she said they arrived, she said they tasted like shit and she hoped they worked, she said she'd lost the baby. I guess I don't see the need to try to poke holes in the pretty solid case that she took the pills. Does it matter? Does it really have an impact on whether she should be sitting in jail the next 20 years?

While i see what you're saying here, i think there's a pretty good point to be made still that text messages are not beyond reasonable doubt.

She sent some texts, and there's some emails, and she either miscarried or aborted. As Michelle said, how is that beyond reasonable doubt?

This absolutely does look like a witch hunt. Even if you do assume or believe that she ordered the correct pills and took them, this does not seem like the most solid case. It seems like a mediocre case waved through because of peoples biases about this sort of thing, especially in that area.
posted by emptythought at 1:42 PM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Prosecuting pregnant women themselves was not part of the public discussion when the feticide law was being considered. But Cotter [prosecuting attorney of St. Joseph’s County] and chief deputy prosecutor Mark Roule, who handled Patel’s case, repeatedly said in an msnbc interview that the charge of feticide was, in fact, an illegal abortion charge.

“A more accurate title would be ‘unlawful termination of pregnancy,’” Cotter said.
posted by nadawi at 1:43 PM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


While i see what you're saying here, i think there's a pretty good point to be made still that text messages are not beyond reasonable doubt.

Huh. I mean, I've never been accused of being insufficiently pro-defense before. Usually it's the opposite. But unless there is a video of her taking the pills with a notarized letter from a doctor attesting that the pills are what caused the miscarriage I'm not sure what else is needed. She searched for the pills, she talked to her friend about the pills, she ordered the pills from an online pharmacy, there is a receipt from the online pharmacy, there are texts telling her friend she took the pills, and there is the miscarriage which is the expected result of taking the pills. That's about as good as it gets. I think this must be the CSI effect where people expect some kind of magic evidence.

Or maybe it's that thing where if people think the result is an injustice then every step along the way must have been done wrongly. But that's not the case. They could really have shown she caused the miscarriage and it can still be an injustice to put her in jail.
posted by Justinian at 2:02 PM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.
"It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer"

When I was in downtown San Diego, there was a promenade lined with quotes. One of the quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King made a statement about how racism is the worst of prejudices because other things can be changed but you cannot change your race. Poor people can earn more money and stop being poor. Uneducated people can get more educated. But discrimination based on race is very damning because you cannot change your race.

Let's not forget that laws like this are disproportionately enforced against poor women of color. The laws are not equally applied to all people. Just like laws against sodomy tend to not be enforced against heterosexual couples who happen to like anal sex but do get enforced against gay men, these laws are a de facto cheap excuse to persecute people of color.

Purvi Patel cannot wash off the fact that she is Indian. When you look at the statistics, it is impossible to reasonably claim that her race had nothing to do with why the book has been thrown at her when the only thing that can be conclusively proven is that she lost her baby. We really cannot conclusively prove whether it was a spontaneous abortion (aka miscarriage) or self-induced abortion.

Even if we could prove conclusively that she intentionally aborted her baby without medical supervision, that should not be reason to throw her in jail for two decades. It just should not be.
posted by Michele in California at 3:14 PM on April 2, 2015 [10 favorites]


While i see what you're saying here, i think there's a pretty good point to be made still that text messages are not beyond reasonable doubt.

A jury's determination of the facts is subject to review, but the standard for that is very tough - it's usually along the lines of no reasonable person could have come to that conclusion, not I think there's still some level of doubt. So appeals generally start with the facts as determined by the lower court, but the defense argues about the law, the way the law was applied, or the sentence that was imposed.

I don't understand how that law can be constitutional in the first place. If it's actually aimed at self-induced abortions then I think it's doubly unconstitutional, because the state's interest in regulating medical service providers shouldn't cover procedures performed on one's own person. But what do I know. Also, I think the sentence is totally disproportionate - but that's my opinion of the US's penal regime generally, so again, what do I know.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:12 PM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Does anything other than her plea of not guilty convince you that this was a genuinely accidental miscarriage?

I'm still trying to figure out why she would need to convince me of anything at all. She miscarried. Whether spontaneously or self-induced is irrelevant, because it's none of my fucking business. Even if she had an abortion and lied about it, it STILL wouldn't be anyone's business but hers.
posted by MissySedai at 4:25 PM on April 2, 2015 [12 favorites]


I don't actually think there has been a single person in this thread who has said they are in favor of Indiana's actions here.
posted by Justinian at 4:34 PM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]



"Also, I don't think anyone here thinks that it was A-OK she had a self induced home abortion."

The only way in which I think that isn't A-OK is that it was her only choice, it seems.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:25 PM on April 1


Yes, exactly. That's what my comment goes on to say.
posted by sio42 at 6:25 PM on April 2, 2015


If she truly was below 26 weeks gestation, as nearly everyone seems to think she was, then she would have been within her rights to refuse interventions for the baby if she had delivered in a hospital. The birth weight of the baby, an estimated 700 grams, is square in the middle of the range for 25 weeks' gestation and at the very bottom of the range for 26 weeks' gestation. That makes the "child neglect" charge seem a little dicier, imho.
posted by KathrynT at 6:39 PM on April 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Maybe some sort of charge for the alleged inhumane manner of the death. Not necessarily a murder length sentence though.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:17 PM on April 2, 2015


Even if everything the prosecutor said was true, she should not be treated as a criminal or sent to prison. She chose to terminate the pregnancy long before this fetus could survive outside the womb without an extraordinarily medical intervention and even with such an intervention, odds are 50%. The fetus was still very much a connected part of her body, no different than a limb, or an eyeball. She made a decision about her body, and she has that right like every other person.
posted by humanfont at 7:43 PM on April 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Maybe some sort of charge for the alleged inhumane manner of the death. Not necessarily a murder length sentence though.

no
posted by NoraReed at 8:45 PM on April 2, 2015 [9 favorites]


Even if everything the prosecutor said was true, she should not be treated as a criminal or sent to prison.

What the prosecutors alleged to have occurred, taking a living baby and putting it in a bag and tossing it in a dumpster to die is not something that should be legally permitted in my view in cases where it is actually proven to have occurred. Even if disposing of a dog or a cat in that way I would feel it should be charged in some manner.

This is not to absolve the major cause of situations like this, the pro-life movement, the laws they have passed, the courts who have upheld them, our culture of shaming women who want to terminate pregnancies, the economic pressures that make raising a family difficult. For all the assertions from such folks that even a supervised medical abortion is inhumane, the laws and culture that promote black market options just lead to even more inhumane results and this case is another one of them. (Inhumane towards the mother we obviously agree on, not trying to force the issue on anything else alleged to have occurred.) They do not believe in harm reduction because they are too caught up in the disastrous idea that they can actually successfully ban the practice.

There are a lot of areas in our society where counterproductive forces in our laws and culture promote people to take actions harmful to themselves or others. Our courts are full of people who did dangerous, harmful, or dumb things. While we need to reform the culture, the laws, and the courts...we can't always absolve adults who felt forced into doing something wrong of all responsibility. You can't put a living baby in a dumpster to die.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:29 PM on April 2, 2015


She chose to terminate the pregnancy long before this fetus could survive outside the womb without an extraordinarily medical intervention and even with such an intervention, odds are 50%.

That's actually highly, HIGHLY dependent on how many weeks' gestation she was at. If she was at 22 weeks, the odds are so close to be zero as to be functionally zero that a baby can survive even with heroic, ethically dubious, bleeding-edge interventions. at 23 weeks the odds go up to about 5-10%. At 24 weeks, they go up to 50%, at 25 weeks to 65%, and at 26 weeks your chances of taking home a live baby from the NICU are 80-85%.

Prosecuting this woman is abhorrent; the idea that the state of Indiana has criminalized her actions, even if they were deliberate, is nauseating in the extreme. The interventions needed to assure the above survival rates -- and "survival" is all they're talking about, let me be clear -- are not even available at most hospitals. But it doesn't do any good to argue that the survival rates of a baby born at 26 weeks are worse than they are.
posted by KathrynT at 9:46 PM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


You can't put a living baby in a dumpster to die.

Is there strong, undisputed evidence that this is in fact what happened?
posted by KathrynT at 9:48 PM on April 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Every single day in hospitals all over the country/world, there are women coming in who retain what the hospital calls (if you can believe this) "products of conception" after a lost pregnancy. Sometimes they're still cramping, sometimes there's blood and clots, sometimes not. Their stories vary, but their pregnancies have terminated and their babies are gone. Sometimes the mothers are heartbroken and cry, sometimes they're relieved and just want to get the job done and go home.

In most of those hospitals, they don't go out of their way to gather a lot of information; instead, they do what needs to be done to clean up what's left and console the Mom/parents as best they can. A D&C may be necessary, and then she's sent home. What happens to the rest of the fetus - the part that's missing? It varies but, particularly with young women still at home with their parents and secret pregnancies, they say they flushed the toilet before they realized what was going on, but it's not uncommon for dumpsters to be involved. Still, it's just routine in hospitals.

The incredible uproar caused by this woman's miscarriage is obscene; something's going on there that's way over the top. It's either political or racial or religious in nature, but it's not the way miscarriages are handled. And it's a damn disgrace to put this woman in prison even if she did abort her fetus intentionally; another example of how the fetus is more important than the child in our ass-backwards Republican climate. I can see a big, fat fine or misdemeanor charge for putting the fetus in the trash, but 20 years in prison? No, no, no.

And I see NO evidence that the fetus/baby was a living, breathing infant when put in the trash bin; babes born at that gestation rarely survive without medical intervention.

There are women in your own city and mine right now going through this same dilemma. I wish that wasn't the case, but it is.
posted by aryma at 9:56 PM on April 2, 2015 [16 favorites]


Is there strong, undisputed evidence that this is in fact what happened?

From what I've read about the case, which is as much as I've been able to dig up on Google and the links here, no. She should never have been charged, and I still find it inexplicable she was convicted.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:57 PM on April 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


They had a witch doctor talk about how he used magic to determine the fetus was born alive. That's how she was convicted.
posted by Justinian at 10:53 PM on April 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't actually think there has been a single person in this thread who has said they are in favor of Indiana's actions here.

Well, i don't really think you can deny there has been plenty of "i'm not saying i agree with their side, but..."
posted by emptythought at 12:31 AM on April 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


They had a witch doctor talk about how he used magic to determine the fetus was born alive.

That appears to have been at least part of it, yeah.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:18 AM on April 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, i don't really think you can deny there has been plenty of "i'm not saying i agree with their side, but..."

It's important to hear where this kind of thing comes from so that we can counter their arguments. People do think like this, they do judge based on this side of the argument. We have to be able to offer up facts to show that they're wrong, not just indignation that they could think like that.
posted by h00py at 4:14 AM on April 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


From what I've read about the case, which is as much as I've been able to dig up on Google and the links here, no. She should never have been charged, and I still find it inexplicable she was convicted.

If you think she shouldn't have been convicted it's damn funny that not ten comments up from the one I quote you're picking out new charges for her to receive.
posted by winna at 4:36 AM on April 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


That she should receive if the allegations had been proven to be true, which I think I have been pretty clear on stating I do not think occurred. There is no crime I feel this woman should have been charged with.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:51 AM on April 3, 2015


Indeed. This thread has read to me like a huge battle between people who think this is abhorrent (full stop) and people who think that this is abhorrent but want to get into the legal and factual technicalities. But perhaps that's my own bias showing through.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:28 AM on April 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe because women can be affected by miscarriage being treated as a crime while for men it's just another rhetorical game.
posted by winna at 2:58 PM on April 5, 2015 [13 favorites]


I wouldn't be surprised if gender factored into it, but I think that there have been both men and women on on either side of these discussions.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:23 PM on April 5, 2015


A 26 week old fetus is not a baby. It requires a womb or advanced medical technology to develop to the point where it is a baby. We should reject the so called pro-life movement's attempt to transform every embryo and fetus into a baby with their plastic models and cute stories about the womb.
posted by humanfont at 8:27 PM on April 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sure look like babies to me.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:35 PM on April 5, 2015


Yes because you are looking at a staged photograph without a reference to the size of the fetus. The fetus has been cleaned up, swaddled in blankets and is kept alive by various visible and not shown medical equipment. You also get to see the happy child years later, beaming a smile. You don't see the ones that didn't make it. You don't see the reality of the birth and the ranges of development. You see the best case scenario. The hopelessly broken ones are not shown. Neither do they show the losing struggles of the significant number that don't make it. Imagine a escalating set of ultimately futile medical interventions that slowly torture the fetus for the entirety of its time outside the womb. Half the time that is the outcome. No one is prosecuting the doctors and the parents who choose the path where the fetus is tortured by medical intervention for its entire short life.

In contrast a newborn full term baby is 4-6 times the size. A newborn baby has fully developed lungs and can almost always breath air, unlike the fetus which will require oxygen for several weeks to have a chance at survival. A newborn baby has a number of other attributes that allow it to survive outside the womb without advanced medical equipment, interventions and 24x7 specialize care in a NICU. You can have a baby outside a hospital and it will most likely be perfectly healthy. There isn't really a home birth option for a 26 week old fetus, because isn't a baby.
posted by humanfont at 11:38 PM on April 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


I don't see much reason to get hung up on the need for medical intervention being such a determining factor on if it is a baby or not. We may have to agree to disagree on that.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:48 PM on April 5, 2015


Oh, and I don't need to imagine the pain of watching a baby spend most of it's too short life undergoing rigorous medical intervention. I've unfortunately lived through that with a niece who died of brain cancer. It doesn't really change my view on this.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:56 PM on April 5, 2015


humanfont, it would be nice if you could come up with a little less brutal way to express your point - that the fetus is not yet ready for birth and not able to survive without medical intervention - other than the "it's not a baby" line you keep repeating, since anyone who has lost a baby at that gestational age is quite certain that it wasn't a fish or a bird or a puppy they held in their hands, but the son or daughter they would never be able to teach to ride a bicycle. Mine, for instance, was a tiny little thing, but very definitely a human male child.

It's a very difficult and painful subject, that of abortion and miscarriage, but it always involves loss and sadness on some level.

Thank you.
posted by aryma at 12:59 AM on April 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


the anti-choicers are the reason the argument always comes down to fetus or baby because that's where they stake their flag in ever worsening harassment and restrictive laws. of course people who lose a pregnancy they want lose a child, but i vehemently disagree that's what happens in abortion - for those women, they have removed a fetus that was never a child to them. both states can exist at once. pictures of wanted preemies doesn't change that, and is frankly a pretty bullshit place to take this thread.
posted by nadawi at 6:12 AM on April 6, 2015 [17 favorites]


I would agree on both states existing at once. I just felt that not a baby is definitely an over-simplification when stated in absolute terms. I made the same mistake by replying in absolute terms though.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:22 AM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


humanfront could have qualified what they said better, but the comments are obviously within this thread, a thread that involves a woman who was dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. the arguments made by the state supporting "baby" are straight up bullshit. in this thread we're talking about a probable fetus, not a baby (as the anti-choice groups would define them) - the prosecutors were pretty clear on msnbc, the feticide charge was for "unlawful termination of a pregnancy."
posted by nadawi at 6:33 AM on April 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


the arguments made by the state supporting "baby" are straight up bullshit.

I agree.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:41 AM on April 6, 2015


Miscarriage can be an emotionally and physically awful event. The experience varies tremendously from person to person. I don't doubt your pain or your loss. Many infertile individuals and couples also experience the same feelings of a lost child / baby. The medical circumstances that there was no embryo doesn't preclude the feeling that a child or baby has been lost.

There is a difference between the subjective experience and the legal / medical definition. The insistence that the defendent's fetus was a baby is incorrect. Pointing this out is not meant to diminish your loss.
posted by humanfont at 7:02 AM on April 6, 2015 [11 favorites]


Thank you, humanfont - you're right that the term "baby" is incorrect when used to describe a 26- or 28-week fetus from the legal standpoint. I'm sorry for the gut reaction, and the point that this thread is about a woman charged with abortion, not miscarriage, is well taken.

The fact that this woman has been sentenced for doing what women have done for thousands of years to rid themselves of unwanted pregnancies is bizarre; five minutes on Google will define the herbs known to cause miscarriage and any herbal book lists abortifacients if you don't have internet access. Herbs should be the last possible choice because they're risky, but still - every single day there are women using them to end pregnancies.

This is a terrible use of the law and the power behind it. I hope they overturn this and set this woman free.
posted by aryma at 4:14 PM on April 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


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