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On Thursday in South Bend, Indiana, Purvi Patel walked out of prison, and reproductive rights activists breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Patel is the 35-year-old woman who was convicted of “feticide” and child neglect in March 2015 after taking drugs to induce a miscarriage. While abortion rights activists cried foul in protests on the courthouse steps, Patel was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a paradoxical charge of abandoning a child while simultaneously killing a fetus.
According to court documents, Patel had discovered she was pregnant in 2013 and took abortion drugs ordered online that caused her to miscarry at around 25—30 weeks. Fearful that her conservative parents would discover what had happened, she placed the fetus in a dumpster and went to a hospital to seek treatment for severe bleeding.
Patel’s doctor called the police on her.
As it turned out, Patel’s doctor was noted anti-abortion activist Kelly McGuire, and his testimony helped put Patel in jail. So did the conservative judge appointed by Indiana’s Gov. Mike Pence, now the Republican candidate for vice president.
On social media, supporters are applauding Patel’s newfound freedom and discussed ways the case had forever changed abortion rights politics.
In July, a federal appeals court overturned Patel’s feticide conviction, stating in the ruling that “the legislature did not intend for the feticide statute to apply to illegal abortions or be used to prosecute women for their own abortions.”
On Wednesday, reported the Indianapolis Star, a county judge at Patel’s resentencing hearing declined to reinstate the feticide charge, and reduced her child neglect charge to time served.
Before she was freed Thursday morning, Patel spent 18 months in prison.
Mary Emily O'Hara is an LGBTQ reporter. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, NBC Out, Daily Dot, Broadly, Vice, the Daily Beast, the Advocate, Huffington Post, DNAinfo, Al Jazeera, and Portland's Pulitzer Prize-winning newsweekly Willamette Week, among other outlets.