Facebook, social media, and news reports have been abuzz with Purvi Patel’s 20-year long prison sentence for allegedly using abortion drugs to self-abort her fetus and dumping the body in a dumpster. When I wrote this sentence, it brought me chills. My first instinct definitely was to ask: how can one take such a step?
But then, can I even try to imagine what it was like for Purvi Patel to have to take such drastic actions? While two people agree to be in a relationship, the accountability of the relationship lied solely on one person, the female protagonist. Could Purvi have possibly known what pregnancy would entail, let alone a pregnancy wherein she could rely on almost nobody?
The constant fear of someone finding out, the guilt of letting down family, the fear of those scornful eyes if the society was made aware of her unplanned pregnancy, outside of marriage, with a man who was going through a divorce……..
A culture so immersed in taboos with regards to relationship outside of marriage, a choice which would be termed as morally wrong and Purvi who crossed that line and now was left to fend for herself as the sole bearer of the consequences of a choice that two people made.
The Indiana court judge during sentencing said this to Purvi, “You, Miss Patel, are an educated woman of considerable means. If you wished to terminate your pregnancy safely and legally, you could have done so.” It was probably not an inaccurate statement to be made if by “considerable means” meant not just money. Money in this case could have definitely helped as with most things that surround us today, including relationships. However, if money were the solution, tabloids wouldn’t have interesting stories to tell of rich and famous about drunk driving arrests, rehab defects, divorces, and many more.
In Purvi’s case, “considerable means” would probably have meant a partner who was willing and able to hold her hand, and give the so sought after legal name to the relationship. Means would also have meant a support system who she could turn to even with the choices she made. Means would have been adequate information on a safe and a secret way to legally abort. Means would have also meant access (or information on the access) to someone who could educate her about the legalities of aborting a child and about the reaction in a woman’s body (profuse bleeding) when giving birth or in this case, aborting.
If her rushing to a hospital, distraught with the umbilical cord protruding, is any indication, she was certainly not one with considerable means. She was most probably a desperate woman who felt alone and had to fend for herself for making one choice that her society sternly disapproved of.
Child outside of a marriage is a taboo which has be engraved on our minds since our childhood and depicted subtly in one of our ancient epics, Mahabharat, depicting Kunti giving birth to a baby boy before she was married, Karna, whose father was actually the revered Sun God. With the fear of society and how it perceives a women with a child outside of marriage, Kunti lets go of baby Karna, in a river.
Kunti, the princess, had considerable means, or did she?
I am not speaking for or against Purvi Patel explicitly here. I am merely making remarks about a society and its perception, as I see it. And as I see it, women can conceive, when she is prepared for it and even when she is not prepared for it. Given the nature, women who are not prepared who be a mother for various reasons, legal provisions are in place to allow women to abort. The social implications in most instances plays a higher role (since we literally live and breather in one, our own microcosm). And to punish Purvi for exercising her legal right to abort, in a not legal manner, so severely seems to have ignored the circumstances. It is easy to come to conclusions, it is rather difficult to address the root cause and try to find a solution.
I am sure of one thing though, I do not want any other woman to have to go through this ordeal for making a choice to be in a relationship.