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Purvi Patel sentenced to 20 years over fetus in dumpster death

"Cases with babies are the ones that people remember. They're the ones that may wake you up in the middle of the night."

By Andrew V. Pestano

SOUTH BEND, Ind., March 31 (UPI) -- Purvi Patel has been sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of feticide, making her the first U.S. woman to be sentenced for the crime.

Patel was sentenced Monday in South Bend, Indiana., at the St. Joseph County Courthouse.

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Feticide is an act that causes the death of a fetus. Patel was arrested in July 2013 after she went heavily bleeding into a Mishawaka, Indiana., emergency room. She initially denied being pregnant, but later admitted she had a miscarriage and threw the fetus into a dumpster.

Prosecutors confirmed Monday the baby died seconds after being born.

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The decision to sentence Patel has been criticized by reproductive rights activists.

"What this conviction means is that anti-abortion laws will be used to punish pregnant woman," Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director for National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said.

Patel's lawyers argued that she panicked when she began labor, as she comes from a conservative Hindu family that looks down on extra-marital sex. Patel became pregnant after having an affair with a co-worker.

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"Purvi Patel's conviction amounts to punishment for having a miscarriage and then seeking medical care, something that no woman should worry would lead to jail time," according to Deepa Iyer, Activist-in-Residence at the University of Maryland's Asian American Studies Program.

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Prosecutors argued that Patel ordered abortion-inducing drugs online and that she gave birth to a live fetus, charging her with child neglect.

"All cases involving child victims are challenging," Deputy Prosecutor Mark Roule said after the sentencing. "I have been, I'm in my 13th year. There are obviously officers that have been doing it a lot longer and the cases with children and particularly the cases with babies are the ones that people remember. They're the ones that may wake you up in the middle of the night."

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Patel never went to a doctor during the pregnancy and tried to keep that information to herself.

St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Hurley sentenced Patel to 30 years on child neglect and six years on the feticide charge, served concurrently.

Patel "treated the child, literally, as a piece of trash," Hurley said.

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Ten years of the child neglect sentence were suspended and five years probation were added. She could be released in about 10 years.

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