The Outrageous Imprisonment of Purvi Patel and the Wake-Up Call to Everyone:
The Fascist War on Women MUST BE STOPPED!

by Sunsara Taylor | April 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


On March 30, Purvi Patel was sentenced by the state of Indiana to 20 years in prison for "feticide" and "neglect of a dependent" after she sought the help of doctors following what she described as a miscarriage of a dead fetus.

A woman who should have received compassionate medical care, counseling, and support after going through the trauma of feeling the need to hide her pregnancy from a conservative religious family and going through a miscarriage alone, instead was turned in to the police by her doctor. She was arrested, put on trial, and shamed in the media, and the fetus she had miscarried was treated as evidence in court to be used against her—and she now has been sentenced to decades in prison!

This case is outrageous on so many levels, it is hard to know where to begin.

First and most importantly, "feticide" should not be a crime. Fetuses are NOT people, and terminating a pregnancy is NOT murder. Criminalizing women who terminate—or attempt to terminate—their own pregnancies is nothing more than a state-backed attempt to reduce women to the status of incubators—to deny the fundamental rights of female human beings to control their own lives, their own reproduction, and their own destinies. There is NOTHING legitimate about these laws, but there is also nothing isolated about them—38 states in the country currently have laws criminalizing "feticide." These laws are illegitimate, as is the whole system of American capitalism-imperialism that has allowed them and is now using them to imprison women like Patel.

Second, even if one were to accept—which no one should—the law which criminalizes "feticide," the courts did not prove Patel's "guilt" of the "crimes" for which she was charged.

What was the "evidence" presented in court of "feticide"? The police snooped and found text messages where Patel mentioned ordering abortifacients (pills which can induce abortion) through the mail and that she had taken them. However, no trace of the abortafacients were in her body when she arrived at the hospital and there was no physical evidence that she had taken them.

What was the "evidence" presented that she "neglected a dependent" (that she allegedly gave birth to a live baby and then let it die)? A completely discredited "float test." In a "float test" the lungs of the fetus are removed and put in water; if they float, supposedly this means that the baby lived long enough to take its first breath. However, it has been known for 100 years that there are other ways air can get into the lungs besides being born alive, so the "float test" proves nothing. Even beyond that, as Gregory J. Davis, assistant state medical examiner for Kentucky and a professor of pathology and lab medicine at the University of Kentucky, told the New York Times, "Even if we agree hypothetically that the baby took a breath, that doesn't mean Ms. Patel did anything wrong. What if she was scared and bleeding herself, and she didn't clamp the cord in time, because she didn't know how, and the baby died?"

To top the whole thing off, the very fact that Patel was charged both with "feticide" and with "neglecting a dependent" ought to be mutually exclusive. Think about it, if she had succeeded in terminating the fetus she couldn't have given birth to a live baby she then neglected, and vice-versa. Yet, the state of Indiana has declared that a woman can be put in prison even for attempting to terminate her own pregnancy—even if she doesn't succeed and the fetus is perfectly healthy!

That the state of Indiana used such flimsy "evidence" to secure a conviction of Patel of such an illegitimate and completely outrageous law only reveals the extreme and woman-hating climate that has been whipped up and the logic of the whole web of anti-abortion restrictions and ideological war that has been building up for decades.

The conviction and sentencing of Purvi Patel is completely illegitimate and must not stand! People must register their fierce opposition to this through mass political mobilization and outcry.

At the same time, larger lessons must be urgently drawn.

First, what has happened to Patel is not an "isolated incident." While it is definitely a dangerous and ominous leap, it is exactly the logical outgrowth of decades of an all out fascist assault on abortion rights and reproductive freedom. What has happened to Patel—and worse—will be the fate of countless other women if this fascist assault is not frontally confronted and reversed!

Hundreds of anti-abortion laws have been passed that have closed abortion clinics across the country. Clinics have been terrorized and bombed. Abortion doctors have been killed. Every day thousands of anti-abortion fascist foot-soldiers harass and shame and even assault women who enter the clinics. And hundreds of restrictions have imposed unnecessary waiting periods, travel time, parental notification laws, costs, mandatory unscientific "counseling," mandatory ultrasounds and other hoops women have to jump through to access abortion.

These same fascist forces—and all too many liberals who have for decades ceded the moral high ground to them—have demonized and stigmatized abortion. They call it "murder" and have built up a whole cult around the fetus, around pregnancy and of motherhood. This has built on and taken to new and grotesque extremes the thousands of years of tradition's chains which viewed women as nothing more than breeders of children.

All this combines to create a situation where more and more women are driven—both through lack of access and through shame and stigma—to either have their lives foreclosed by being forced to bear children they did not want or to go to extreme measures to terminate unwanted pregnancies on their own. Then, when women do attempt to self-abort a whole framework of laws has been set in place like a trap ready to spring up and catch women in its grip, demonize them in the media, and lock them away in prison for years.

The long-term imprisonment of Purvi Patel must be a wake-up call to people everywhere: either we stand up now to fight for abortion on demand and without apology for all women in all circumstances, or we will allow this to become the new normal for women everywhere.
On another and even more profound level, it must be confronted that a government and a system that is moving fast to lock women up in prison for attempting to self-abort—even for complications in pregnancies—is completely illegitimate. The state houses that pass these woman-hating laws, the police that arrest women out of hospitals, the courts that throw the book at them, the state backed prosecution that uses pseudo-science and the prejudices of patriarchal tradition, the media that feeds off and further fuels the same, and the whole culture that has been built up to normalize and accept all this—all of this is illegitimate. And while the Christian fascists driving this assault on women are largely concentrated in the Republican Party, woman-hating is not just a "Republican thing."

Not a single major politician has come out to denounce this case. Not one. Where is Obama on this major, precedent-setting case that will affect the future of all women? Where is the "hero" of so many self-proclaimed feminists, Hillary Clinton? Silent as a knife in the back.

Stopping the war on women, a situation where thousands and thousands of women are already living every day in conditions where they are one missed period away from devastation, desperation, and foreclosed lives, requires that millions of people in this country STOP hoping for this war to go away on its own, stop relying on the Democrats to "save women," and step out in massive and bold mass political resistance. And, putting an end to all forms of terror, violence, and subjugation that have been the brutal fate of women everywhere for thousands of years is going to take going even further—making a revolution.

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