As the nation debates Indiana's controversial religious freedom legislation, there's yet another state law that is creating a stir after a woman was sentenced this week to 20 years behind bars following the 2013 death of her baby.
Purvi Patel, 33, will spend two decades in prison after being found guilty of "feticide" and neglect of a dependent, according to NBC News.
Under Indiana law, "a person who knowingly or intentionally terminates a human pregnancy with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus commits feticide," a felony offense. Legal abortions, though, do not fall under this measure.
At the center of the case was Patel's claim that she had a miscarriage and that her baby was not born alive.
Prosecutors, though, presented a very different story, claiming that she tried to unsuccessfully end her pregnancy with illegal abortion drugs and neglected the baby after it was born alive.
There are differences of opinion as to how far along Patel was in her pregnancy, with estimates falling between 23 and 25 weeks, though she reportedly told investigators that she didn't realize that she was so far along at the time of the baby's death.
Patel was first arrested in 2013 after showing up with heavy bleeding at St. Joseph Hospital in Mishawaka, Indiana. While she reportedly initially lied to medical professionals and said that she hadn't been pregnant, it was later discovered that the baby was thrown in the trash.
It's the details surrounding the baby's death, though, that have created the most controversy, as prosecutors alleged that she intentionally sought to end the pregnancy and did not help the baby sustain life.
Patel, who comes from a strict Hindu family, reportedly panicked after going into labor, as sex outside of marriage is not deemed acceptable in her family. While sitting in a hospital bed just hours after her baby was found dead in a trash can, Patel told a homicide investigator that she had only learned she was pregnant three weeks earlier and assumed that she was only two months along.
Patel said that the baby was not responsive after delivery and that she tried to open its mouth to resuscitate, but was unable.
She also said she didn't call 911 and decided to put the baby in the trash, because she was shocked and "didn't know what else to do," according to WSBT-TV.
After all of the facts were presented, her attorney, Jeff Sanford, defended his client in court, but to no avail.
"I don't think Miss Patel is the monster she's portrayed to be," Sanford said.
But St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Hurley chastised the woman for not seeking a legal abortion and decried her "treatment of the child literally as a piece of trash," the Associated Press reported.
"You, Miss Patel, are an educated woman of considerable means. If you wished to terminate your pregnancy safely and legally, you could have done so," Hurley said in court. "You planned a course of action and took matters into your own hands and chose not to go to a doctor."
The case has been particularly noteworthy, as it is the first time that a woman in the United States has been convicted and sentenced on a feticide charge, which means that a debate over the law — and Patel's case in particular — is likely to ramp up.
Lynn Paltrow, executive director for National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a women's rights group, is speaking out against the conviction and the law that served as its underpinning.
"While no woman should face criminal charges for having an abortion or experiencing a pregnancy loss, the cruel length of this sentence confirms that feticide and other measures promoted by anti-abortion organizations are intended to punish not protect women," Palrow said in a statement.
Paltrow isn't the only critic to lambaste the case, with liberal commentator Sally Kohn calling the feticide law "outrageous" and claiming that the evidence wasn't full-proof.
"The evidence against her has been shaky from the start. Initially, police questioned Patel when she was still in the hospital without an attorney present," she wrote in a recent CNN op-ed. "Prosecutors would later introduce text messages indicating that Patel had purchased miscarriage-inducing drugs, but there was noevidence Patel took the drugs. In fact, they didn't show up in blood tests just after she miscarried."
Patel plans to appeal her case.