Some self-induced abortions result in criminal cases

AP News
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Posted: May 23, 2016 4:24 PM

Across the nation, abortion-rights activists are closely following Monday's appeals court hearing involving an Indiana woman convicted of killing the premature infant she delivered after ingesting abortion-inducing drugs.

Lawyers for 35-year-old Purvi Patel will ask the Indiana Court of Appeals court to throw out the convictions that led to her 20-year prison sentence.

Patel's case is one of more than a dozen recent cases cited by abortion-rights supporters in which women were arrested or convicted in connection with self-induced abortion. The issue is a volatile one, in part because many anti-abortion leaders say they do not favor prosecutions of women for their own abortions, even as they urge crackdowns on doctors who provide them.

Among the cases where this issue has arisen:

-A Georgia woman was jailed without bond last year before prosecutors decided police had wrongly charged her with murder after being told she used pills ordered online to terminate her pregnancy. Kenlissia Jones was freed and the murder charge dropped; a misdemeanor drug charge was maintained.

-In Indiana, a Chinese immigrant charged with killing her baby by eating rat poison while she was pregnant pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of criminal recklessness. It was part of a deal with prosecutors, who dropped a murder charge in 2013. The woman, Bei Bei Shuai, spent 178 days in jail.

—In Utah, a 17-year-old girl was charged in 2009 with solicitation to commit murder for allegedly hiring a man to beat her in an effort to induce a miscarriage. The charge was dismissed by a juvenile court judge who ruled that she was seeking an abortion and was not criminally liable. The man charged in the beating pleaded guilty to second-degree felony attempted murder and was sentenced to up to five years in prison.

—In South Carolina, a migrant worker from Mexico was convicted in 2005 of performing an illegal abortion on herself using the abortion-inducting drug misoprostol. Gabriela Flores, who already had three children, served a few months in jail during the case.

—In Pennsylvania, a woman received a 9-to-18-month prison term for helping to end her 16-year-old daughter's pregnancy by giving her pills purchased online. The mother, Jennifer Ann Whalen, told authorities they couldn't find a local clinic to perform an abortion, and the girl had no insurance to pay for a hospital stay.

—An Idaho woman, Jennie McCormack, was charged in 2011 with having an illegal abortion after telling authorities she took pills to terminate her pregnancy and then kept the fetus in a box on her back porch for several days. The charge was eventually dismissed.