Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Monday, February 8, 2016

Prominent Historians Argue Coverture in SCOTUS Amicus Brief Opposing TX Abortion Law

The brief in Whole Woman's Health v. Cole is a beautiful summary of women's legal history, and the difference knowing such history can make today.  

Wash Post, Laws Written by Men to Protect Women Deserve Scrutiny, Supreme Court Told

History holds a lesson for the Supreme Court, the brief warns: Be skeptical of laws protecting women that are written by men.


The nation’s past is littered with such statutes, say the historians who filed the friend-of-the-court brief, and the motives were suspect.*** 


The brief is filed by professors from across the country in the court’s upcoming abortion case, Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. It urges the justices to examine the intent of Texas legislators who say they approved new restrictions on abortion providers as health safeguards for the women undergoing the procedure.


“Any new law that claims to protect women’s health and safety should be scrutinized carefully to assess whether its ostensibly protective function actually serves to deny liberty and equal citizenship to women,” said the brief filed by 16 historians, 13 of whom are women.



February 8, 2016 in Abortion, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Challenge to Ohio's New Anti-Abortion Laws

Oral argument was held this past week in PreTerm Cleveland v. Kasich, challenging Ohio's new anti-abortion laws. 

House Bill 59 (known as H.B. 59) was the State of Ohio’s 2014-2015 biennial budget bill. The Ohio House of Representatives introduced H.B. 59 on February 12, 2013, and Governor Kasich signed the bill into law on June 30, 2013.  H.B. 59 is 3,747 pages long and contains 551 sections. The Bill amends 2,106, enacts 345, and repeals 174 sections of the Ohio Revised Code. Included in HB 59 were three provisions that restrict women’s access to abortion:


First, the Heartbeat and Informed Consent Provision requires doctors to perform ultrasounds at least 24 hours before performing an abortion to detect the presence of a heartbeat. If a doctor fails to perform the ultrasound and performs the abortion anyway, the patient may sue the doctor, and the doctor can be disciplined by the State Medical Board. If the doctor detects a heartbeat, she or he must provide specific information to the patient including the fact that a heartbeat was detected and the statistical probability of carrying the pregnancy to term. If the doctor fails to provide this information to a patient and performs the abortion, the doctor is subject to criminal prosecution.


Second, H.B. 59’s Written Transfer Agreement Provisions require all surgical facilities operating outside hospitals (known as ambulatory surgical facilities) to make written agreements with local hospitals. These agreements would establish a procedure for the hospital to take on patients from the outside facility. However, the Bill forbids public hospitals from entering into such agreements with facilities that perform non-therapeutic abortions. In addition, public hospitals are prohibited from permitting doctors who have privileges to work at the hospital to use their privileges to circumvent this requirement.


Third, the Parenting and Pregnancy Program Provisions of H.B. 59 create a new substantive program that would channel federal funding from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant to private, nonprofit organizations. The purpose of the program is to promote childbirth, parenting and alternatives to abortion. The private entities to be funded by this program may not participate in or be associated with abortion-related activities including abortion counseling or referrals, performing abortion-related medical procedures or engaging in “pro-abortion” advertising.

February 3, 2016 in Abortion, Courts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 22, 2016

On the 43rd Anniversary of Roe v. Wade: A Legal History Reading List

For the decision and oral argument, see Oyez, Roe v. Wade (Jan. 22, 1973)

 For the history and backstory of legalizing abortion, see:

For the anti-abortion advocacy, after Roe, see:

For today's commentary, see:




January 22, 2016 in Abortion, Constitutional, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

SC Legislator Proposes Informed Consent Law for Viagra

Really.  2015-16 Bill 4544: Erectile Dysfunction-South Carolina Legislature.

Applying limitations on women's reproductive rights equally to men. 

H/t Ann Bartow.

December 15, 2015 in Abortion, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Group Challenges AZ Susan B. Anthony-Frederick Douglass Selective Abortion Ban as Discrimination for Perpetuating Stereotypes

Asian American Group to Challenge Arizona's Sex Selection Abortion Ban

This Wednesday, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) will  challenge Arizona’s ban on so-called race-selective and sex-selective abortions.


NAPAWF along with the Maricopa County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (MC-NAACP) argue the law “targets and stigmatizes Black and Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and is based entirely on racially motivated stereotypes and generalizations about Black and AAPI women’s reasons for deciding to terminate a pregnancy.”


Lawmakers in support of the ban cite high numbers of sex-selective abortions in Asian countries as a primary reason why the ban should be enacted.


The case will be heard in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. In 2011, the Arizona legislature passed the “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011.”


An earlier court ruling upheld the law on the grounds the NAACP and NAPAWF had no legal grounds to challenge it. The court said, in effect, that if there is no individual claiming that they were personally denied the ability to obtain an abortion, then there is no harm in this case to bring suit. Both groups are challenging that ruling in the Ninth Circuit Court this Wednesday.


” The Arizona law unconstitutionally and unequivocally discriminates against people of color, including Asian Americans,” Miriam Yeung, Executive Director of NAPAWF said to AsAmNews. “Specifically, lawmakers in support of the ban cite high numbers of sex-selective abortions in Asian countries as a primary reason why the ban should be enacted. The Arizona ban was passed based upon racist stereotypes about Asian Americans that have no basis in fact.”


I have written a bit about the Anthony-Douglass Act and the misappropriation of Susan B. Anthony's name for anti-abortion advocacy.  See Tracy Thomas Misappropriating Women's History in the Law and Politicis of Abortion, 36 Seattle L. Rev. 1, 8 (2012).

December 11, 2015 in Abortion, Legal History, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Bad Mother: Stigma, Abortion and Surrogacy

Paula Abrams (Lewis & Clark), The Bad Mother: Stigma, Abortion and Surrogacy, 43 J. Law, Medicine & Ethics (Summer 2015).



Why do certain decisions about reproduction engender social support, other decisions social disapproval? Surrogacy and abortion represent two different facets of procreative liberty, the right to reproduce and the right to avoid reproducing, but these different experiences may carry similar stigmatic harm, for both disrupt traditional expectations of the pregnant woman. This article examines how stigma attached to abortion and surrogacy reveals similar patterns of gender stereotyping. It argues that evidence of stigma is relevant to determining whether laws regulating abortion or surrogacy are based on impermissible stereotyping. Stigma evidence is probative in determining whether gender stereotypes influenced legislative purpose and in assessing the degree of harm imposed by a regulation


November 23, 2015 in Abortion, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Ziegler on Writing Abortion History

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Fetal Custody Action to Deny Pregnant Inmate's Abortion

NYT, Inmate's Suit Over Abortion Ends with Her Decision to Have Child

A lawsuit brought by a pregnant Alabama inmate seeking access to an abortion was dismissed by a federal judge on Friday after the woman said she had changed her mind and would carry the child.


The action essentially ended a legal clash that had seen the woman go to federal court to assert her right to an abortion, and the county’s district attorney go to an Alabama court to strip the woman of her parental rights over the fetus to block the abortion.


The Latest Anti-Choice Move: Try to Take Custody of a Woman's Fetus

But Alabama has brought efforts to restrict abortion to a whole new level, as the state tried this week to stop a woman from getting an abortion by terminating her parental rights... to her fetus.


District attorney Chris Connolly filed a petition to terminate an incarcerated woman’s parental rights for the sole purpose of stopping her from ending her pregnancy. The woman, known as Jane Doe, had filed a lawsuit in order to be granted a furlough to obtain the procedure. Connolly told a local paper, “Our position, if the termination for parental rights is granted, is that [she] would not have standing to obtain the abortion.” He’s arguing that Doe’s parental rights should be rescinded because she is facing charges of chemical endangerment of a child.

August 2, 2015 in Abortion, Pregnancy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Closing Abortion Clinics on Grounds of Protecting Women's Health

Linda Greenhouse (NYT/Yale) and Reva Siegel (Yale), Casey and the Clinic Closings: When "Protecting Health" is an Undue Burden, Yale L. J (forthcoming).


We seek in this article to understand how the Supreme Court's abortion jurisprudence addresses laws that invoke, not potential life, but women's health as a reason to single out abortion for burdensome regulation that closes clinics. We approach this project with a sense of urgency. The current wave of health-justified restrictions — prominently including laws that require abortion providers to secure admitting privileges at nearby hospitals or to become the functional equivalents of hospitals themselves — is destroying the clinic infrastructure on which women depend in order to exercise their constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. 

There is now a sharp circuit conflict over how judges are to evaluate the states' claims that admitting privilege laws protect women's health. Some circuits read Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey and the Court’s subsequent decision in Gonzales v. Carhart to require courts to examine whether health-justified regulations actually and effectively serve health-related ends. Others construe the cases to require judicial deference to the states' claims. We argue that Casey/Carhart require judicial scrutiny of health-justified regulations to ensure these regulations do not obstruct abortion by unconstitutional means.

The analysis of health-justified restrictions we offer rests on an understanding of Casey's undue burden standard — reaffirmed in Carhart — as the product of a compromise over Roe v. Wade. While prohibiting states from banning abortion before fetal viability, Casey allowed government to express a preference for childbirth throughout a woman's pregnancy by trying to persuade her, through a 24-hour waiting period and the provision of information, to forego abortion. Persuasion is the heart of the Casey compromise: government may protect potential life, but not in ways that obstruct women from acting on their constitutionally protected choice.

Regulations that close clinics in the name of women's health, but without health-related justification, do not persuade; they prevent. In so doing, they violate the constitutional principle at the core of the Casey compromise: that government express respect for the dignity of human life by means that respect the dignity of women.

July 23, 2015 in Abortion, Healthcare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Abortion Rights After the Same-Sex Marriage Case

Following up on my prior post What Does the Same-Sex Marriage Case and its "Right to Individual Autonomy" Mean for Abortion Rights, suggesting that some of Kennedy's language of autonomy and personal choice might apply to protect abortion rights, here is a view that the SSM decision is not useful to abortion rights.

Anthony Kennedy's Dignity Jurisprudence is Great for Same-Sex Marriage, But Not Abortion Rights.

 I find myself increasingly disappointed in Kennedy’s articulation of the right to same-sex marriage. Not because I don’t appreciate the way he discussed marriage as a fundamental right crucial to the dignity of gay and lesbian individuals, but because he doesn’t locate a woman’s right to reproductive autonomy in that same sphere of dignity. ***


When it comes to women reserving dignity for themselves—the dignity to make the most personal choice—whether or not to have children—Kennedy has devolved into patriarchal notions about women’s frailty and inconstancy, with language steeped in stereotypes and gender-normative claptrap.


However useful Kennedy finds it for expanding constitutional protections for certain rights, dignity is a gendered double-edged sword. It’s great for men and it has turned out to be great for same-sex couples who want to get married. But dignity as a concept is worthless when it comes to reproductive rights.


In her article, “Aborting Dignity: The Abortion Doctrine After Gonzales v. Carhart,” Victoria Baranetsky examined the limitations of dignity as a useful constitutional principle, and describes its dual meaning. She wrote, “Dignity has two radically different meanings: femininesocial obligation and masculine autonomy.” (Emphases in original.)

July 14, 2015 in Abortion, Same-sex marriage, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Abortion License Plates

Slate, SCOTUS Clears Way for North Carolina to Ban Pro-Choice License Plates

Buried among the Supreme Court's orders on Monday was a decision to vacate a Fourth Circuit ruling requiring North Carolina to make pro-choice license plates. Before that ruling, North Carolina made anti-abortion license plates—but refused to make any plates supporting abortion rights. The Fourth Circuit held that its rejection of pro-choice plates violated the First Amendment, and ordered the state to make plates reflecting both sides of the debate.


But then, in mid-June, the Supreme Court ruled, by a 5-4 vote, that Texas could ban Confederate flags on its license plates. License plate designs, the court held, constituted "government speech," not private speech. Thus, states may refuse to make a proposed plate—purely on ideological grounds—without violating the freedom of speech. As I noted then, the decision, called Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans, seemed destined to have ramifications in the abortion debate. Some states (like New York) permit only pro-choice plates. Some states (like North Carolina) permit only anti-abortion plates. The justices' decision in Walker, I suggested, implicity condoned this blatant censorship. 


On Monday, the court proved me right. By vacating the Fourth Circuit's pro-speech ruling and directing it to reconsider the case in light of Walker, the justices all but ordered Fourth Circuit to reverse itself and allow the state's censorship. Despite its rejection of a Confederate flag plate, Walker was not a victory for civility or tolerance. It was an invitation for states to engage in the suppression of expression

July 7, 2015 in Abortion, Courts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

NY Passes Women's Equality Act

The Women's Equality Act Will Soon be a Reality in New York

Though it may have generated the most buzz, Governor Cuomo’s new sexual assault bill was not the only legislative gain for New York women’s rights to come out of this year’s session in Albany. Capital New York points out that New York lawmakers also passed nine out of ten bills in the Women’s Equality Act — a significant advance for gender equality in the state, and, strangely, one that no one seems to be talking about.


Cuomo first introduced the package back in January 2013, and after failing to pass it, made it a keystone of his 2014 re-election campaign. The 10-point legislative plan is impressive in scope: It includes strengthening equal pay laws, outlawing discrimination against parents and pregnant women in the workplace, increasing protections for victims of domestic violence, strengthening laws against human trafficking, and safeguarding reproductive health by codifying Roe v. Wade into New York State law.


It’s this last component of the bill — the abortion plank — which proved to be a sticking point with Senate republicans. Supporters point out that the existing New York abortion law, which decriminalized the procedure, dates back to 1970 — three years before the Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade. Most important, the current law does not protect the woman’s health if serious complications develop late in pregnancy; legally, the woman is only protected if her life is deemed to be in danger.


The proposed abortion bill included in the Women’s Equality Act would ensure that women can get an abortion up to 24 weeks into their pregnancy, or when necessary to protect their life or health, and would also protect physicians who offer abortions within the scope of their practice from being criminally prosecuted. Though Cuomo asserted that the language of the bill “in no way expands abortion rights but only codifies federal law,” he ultimately agreed to drop the provision from the Women’s Equality Act in the face of opposition this March.


Without the abortion bill, the other nine measures of the act passed through the assembly with little opposition. While there are still plenty of other legal measures that would help advance gender equality — paid family leave and raising the minimum wage, to start — we shouldn’t ignore these significant legislative gains.

July 4, 2015 in Abortion, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Court Dismisses Woman's Miscarriage Malpractice Claim Against Religious Hospital

ACLU, Court Refuses to Hear Case of Pregnant Woman Denied Care at Catholic Hospital

A federal district court today dismissed a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Michigan on behalf of a pregnant woman who was denied appropriate medical treatment because of the hospital’s religious directives.


In terminating the lawsuit brought by Muskegon resident Tamesha Means against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan said it was doing so, in part, because resolution of the case would involve reviewing religious doctrine. ***


In 2010, Ms. Means rushed to Mercy Health Partners when her water broke after only 18 weeks of pregnancy. The hospital, which was the only one in Muskegon County, sent her home twice even though she was in excruciating pain. Because of its Catholic affiliation and binding directives, the hospital told Ms. Means that there was nothing it could do, and it did not tell Ms. Means that terminating her pregnancy was an option and the safest course for her condition.


When Ms. Means returned to the hospital in extreme distress and with an infection, the hospital prepared to send her home for a third time. While staff prepared her discharge paperwork, she began to deliver. Only then did the hospital begin tending to Ms. Means’ miscarriage.

June 30, 2015 in Abortion, Healthcare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

What does the Same-Sex Marriage Case and its "Right to Individual Autonomy" Mean for Abortion Rights?

The Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges contains some interesting language about personal choice that arguably could be relevant in abortion cases. Kennedy very carefully describes the fundamental right as one of personal choice and autonomy.  

  • "In addition these liberties extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices that define personal identity and beliefs." Obergefell, 10.                                                                                                                                                               
  • "A first premise of the Court’s relevant precedents is that the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy. This abiding connection between marriage and liberty is why Loving invalidated interracial marriage bans under the Due Process Clause. See 388 U. S., at 12; see also Zablocki, supra, at 384 (observing Loving held “the right to marry is of fundamental importance for all individuals”). Like choices concerning contraception, family relationships, procreation, and childrearing, all of which are protected by the Constitution, decisions concerning marriage are among the most intimate that an individual can makeObergefell, 12.                                                                                                                                     
  • "There is dignity in the bond between two men or two women who seek to marry and in their autonomy to make such profound choices. Cf. Loving, supra, at 12 (“[T]he freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State”). Obergefell, 13.                                                                                                               
  • The opinion relies on the birth control cases of Eisenstadt, Griswold, and Poe, and the maternity rights of LaFleur.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
  • And Justice Roberts in dissent rejects "this freewheeling notion of individual autonomy." 

June 27, 2015 in Abortion, Constitutional | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

SCOTUS Denies Cert in NC Abortion Ultrasound Case Leaving the Circuit Split

Yesterday, the Supreme Court denied cert in  Walker-McGill v. Stuart thus upholding the 4th Circuit's decision that the mandatory abortion ultrasound law violates the provider's First Amendment rights.

On the 4th Cir. decision: Natl L. J, NC Abortion Ultrasound Rule Violates First Amendment, Court Says

Caroline Corbin's (Miami) article Compelled Disclosures, 65 Alabama L.Rev. 1277 (2014) concluding that mandatory ultrasound disclosures violate the provider's free speech rights.

There is now a circuit split, with the 5th and 8th Circuits  upholding the ultrasound laws, and the 4th striking it down. 

June 16, 2015 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Viewing the Expecting Mother with Suspicion

Rona Kaufman Kitchen (Duquesne), Holistic Pregnancy: Rejecting the Theory of the Adversarial Mother, 26 Hastings Women's L.J. (2015).

From the abstract:

 In its zealous effort to protect the lives and health of unborn children, the law frequently views the expecting mother with suspicion. In its most extreme form, the law regards the potential mother as a potential murderess. This perspective does not reflect the nature of pregnancy, it undermines the autonomy of loving mothers, and it is detrimental to children. Regardless of whether there is any conflict between mother and fetus, the State presumes the mother to be a threat to her fetus and subjugates her rights as a result. The State interferes with the mother’s autonomy, bodily integrity, parental rights, and physical freedom. This overreach of authority has disastrous consequences for mothers, children, and families. This article proposes a reconceptualization of pregnancy that reflects maternal and scientific understandings of pregnancy. Further, it offers a path toward recognition of the pregnant woman as an expecting mother.

May 19, 2015 in Abortion, Family | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Article on Akron Abortion SCOTUS Cases

Pleased to announce that my article, Back to the Future of Regulating Abortion in the First Term, 29 Wisconsin J. Law, Gender & Soc'y 47 (2014), received the annual award for best faculty scholarship granted by the Alumni Association.

The article tracks the backstory of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health and Ohio v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health.  It draws on original research of oral histories and recovered documents to explore the historical and legal context that spawned informed consent laws so early after Roe v. Wade seemingly resolved the legal question over abortion.  


May 9, 2015 in Abortion, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hobby Lobby Keeps on Ticking

Leslie Griffin, "Trigger"-Happy Justice Alito Stays Third Circuit Contraceptive Mandate,

Before the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Geneva College, which is associated with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, regularly notified its insurance carrier that it would not provide coverage for four contraceptives that it deemed to be abortifacients, namely, emergency contraceptives Plan B and ella and two intrauterine devices. Similarly, the Roman Catholic Bishops and Dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie, Pennsylvania, along with their affiliated nonprofit organizations Catholic Charities, Prince of Peace Center, St. Martin Center, and Erie Catholic Cathedral Preparatory School, regularly notified their insurance carriers that they would not provide any contraceptive insurance. Geneva College administrators believe some contraceptives cause abortion and abortion is immoral; Catholic officials believe all contraception is immoral.


After the passage of the ACA, Geneva College is required to tell either its insurance company or the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that it will not provide coverage for four contraceptives that it deems to be abortifacients, namely, emergency contraceptives Plan B and ella and two intrauterine devices. Similarly, the Roman Catholic organizations are required to tell either their insurance companies or HHS that they will not provide contraceptive coverage to their employees.


Post-ACA, however, the religious organizations argue that filling out a simple notification form, just as they did in the past, substantially burdens their religion in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). They argue that filling out a form makes them “complicit” in the sins of abortion and contraception because their signatures immorally “trigger” abortion and contraception.


Four courts of appeals—the Sixth, Seventh, D.C., and, most recently, the Third Circuits, in Geneva College v. Burwell— rejected that argument. The “trigger” to insurance coverage, those courts concluded, is the ACA itself, which legally requires contraceptive access for employees. Thus there is no “causal link” or trigger between the notification forms and contraception. Without a trigger, there is no substantial burden on religion, because women’s independent access to contraception is not a substantial burden on the religious organizations’ religious exercise. As the Third Circuit shrewdly observed:

The appellees’ real objection is to what happens after the form is provided—that is, to the actions of the insurance issuers and the third-party administrators, required by law, once the appellees give notice of their objection.

The court then refused to give the religious organizations a veto over women’s rights on such non-substantial ground.


There things stood until Justice Samuel Alito shot down women’s rights last week by staying the Third Circuit’s opinion for the Catholic plaintiffs. Geneva College has asked the Court for a similar stay.

April 23, 2015 in Abortion, Healthcare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Impact of Abortion Laws on Women of Color

April Shaw (Arizona), How Race-Selective and Sex-Selective Bans on Abortion Expose the Color-Coded Dimensions of the Right to Abortion and Deficiencies in Constitutional Protections for Women of Color, NY Review of Law & Social Change (forthcoming)

The Supreme Court’s framework on the right to abortion as articulated in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey fails to take into account how race impacts women’s access to abortion. I argue that the race “neutral” framework of Casey’s undue burden test simultaneously erases the racial context of abortion and imposes a conceptual blind spot on how race is used to place a greater burden on women of color relative to white women. Specifically, States are using race to burden women’s access to abortion, but because the right to abortion does not explicitly take race into account, race is not used to measure whether regulations pose a heavier burden on certain groups of women. Applying race as a conceptual lens of analysis is not about inserting race into the legal framework, it is about showing how the current legal framework obscures the impact of race and almost inevitably perpetuates racial stereotypes, disproportionate burdens, and racial inequalities so as to systematically ensure that the right to an abortion as a fundamental right is less secure for women of color.

April 11, 2015 in Abortion, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Woman Sentenced to 20 Years for Feticide...or was it Abortion?

In Indiana. 

For excellent coverage of the case, see Emily Bazelon, NYT, Purvi Patel Could be Just the Beginning

Patel’s case stands out, for the draconian length of the sentence she received, and for the disturbing image of a baby left in a Dumpster. But it is also part of a pattern. “This case shows how easy it is to sweep up women who’ve had miscarriages and stillbirths into a criminal justice framework,” Paltrow told me. For her, the key question is how to ensure that fewer women become as desperate as Patel must have been about her pregnancy. “Do you think these cases will be less rare if you terrify people and make them criminals?” she said.

Purvi Patel Sentenced to 41 Years for Feticide and Neglect of a Dependent

Purvi Patel was sentenced Monday to 41 years in prison on charges of feticide and felony neglect of a dependent after an Indiana jury in early February found her guilty of the charges. She was ordered to serve 20 years in prison after receiving a 30-year sentence on the felony neglect charge, with an additional ten years suspended.***


Patel in July 2013 went to a hospital emergency room suffering from heavy vaginal bleeding. She denied that she had been pregnant, but eventually told doctors that she had miscarried and placed the stillborn fetus in a bag and placed the bag in a dumpster.


Police questioned Patel without a lawyer present while she was in the hospital. Police also searched the text messages in Patel’s phone, which prosecutors claim revealed that she had communicated to a friend that she was pregnant and had purchased drugs online to terminate the pregnancy. Patel, who is Indian-American, lived in a conservative Hindu household in which it was expected that she would not engage in premarital sex, and wanted to keep the pregnancy a secret from her parents.


In order to support the contradictory charges of feticide and felony neglect of a dependent, the state was required to prove that Patel both “knowingly or intentionally” terminated her pregnancy “with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus,” and that she neglected a dependent.


A charge of feticide requires a dead fetus, while a charge of neglect of a dependent requires a live birth.



April 2, 2015 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)