Press Release 4 February 2015
Women’s charity condemns guilty verdict as Indiana woman is charged with ‘feticide’ and child neglect.
The jury in a landmark case in Indiana has found Purvi Patel guilty of two contradictory charges of ‘feticide’ and child neglect. Despite widespread condemnation of the case by legal experts, health organisations and human rights activists, Patel faces up to 70 years in prison after giving birth to a stillborn baby.
Rebecca Schiller, co-chair of Birthrights (the UK-based human rights in childbirth charity), said:
“This is the second case of Indiana’s feticide laws being used against the vulnerable pregnant women they theoretically seek to protect. It is a worrying demonstration of what happens when the outcome of individual pregnancies is made political and subject to criminal sanctions. In addition, women in Indiana (and a rising number of US states) struggle to access free, safe abortion and are forced to see ultrasound images of their foetus before an abortion will be performed.”
“The health and wellbeing of women and babies is being jeopardised by attempts to undermine women’s rights to access abortion, make decisions about their pregnancies and the way they wish to give birth. Despite all major US health organisations opposing criminalising pregnant women for the outcomes of their pregnancies, an epidemic of strategic prosecutions is the reality for women in America. Women from ethnic minorities and those at the lowest end of the socio-economic spectrum are most frequently targeted in these cases.”
“It is essential that women feel able to access unbiased support services and antenatal care without fear of a prison sentence. Legal systems should assert that women need to be trusted to make decisions about their pregnancies and draconian restrictions on abortions only serve to penalise the most vulnerable women.
“We need to remain vigilant about attempts to undermine women’s reproductive rights in the UK, while raising awareness of the hostile climate in the USA and supporting those American advocates seeking to protect women from these harmful laws.”
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