This reflection was initially posted as two, on July 23 and September 2, 2016, on the dates of Ms. Patel’s overturning of her feticide conviction and her subsequent release.
Note, amidst Purvi Patel’s most severe conviction being thrown out, that her conviction for “neglect of a dependent” still stands. Class D felonies in Indiana carry a maximum prison term of three years. There seems to be some disagreement as to the scope of the neglect statute, but a 1995 student note believes that Indiana courts had agreed that the neglect statute was not intended to apply to situations involving the “death” of a dependent (n.85). This is not an unmitigated victory by any means, nor should it be considered, in my mind, much of a cause for celebration past the partial righting of the obvious injustice to Ms. Patel.
I ask you to consider this profile and think about the fact that we still live in a country where a fifteen year old child feels compelled to choose to accept six years in prison for not being aware of the constitutional rights she has and the resources available to her. After all, the state of Indiana STILL saw fit to still convict Ms. Patel of a felony that they deemed worthy of 18 months behind bars.
Consider the collateral consequences of that felony conviction. Ms. Patel has the good luck of having not been convicted in one of the 34 states where you do not have your voting rights restored on release. However, it has become exceptionally more difficult for her to access public housing. Indiana also has not banned the box, which may destroy her chances of finding a job in-state entirely.
Keep in mind that (as RBG has pointed out) with the resources that more privileged women have, these sorts of convictions are not within their contemplation, so it is the people who are affected by the collateral consequences the most that would disproportionately bear the brunt of a reality where we punish a woman for attempting to exercise her constitutional rights.