Thursday, December 20, 2007

First-degree homicide of an unborn child

APPLETON, Wis. (AP) -- A married man is charged with attempted murder for slipping his girlfriend a drug that authorities say caused her to miscarry twice. 34 year-old Manishkumar Patel of Appleton is charged with 7 felonies and two misdemeanors. They include attempted first-degree murder of an unborn child, stalking, burglary and two counts of violating a restraining order. Outagamie County Court Commissioner Brian Figy ordered Patel held on cash bail of $750,000.

Authorities say he and his girlfriend, 39-year-old family physician Darshana Patel, have a 3-year-old child together, but he's married to someone else. Patel is a common Indian last name. Darshana Patel became pregnant two more times but miscarried in December and September.

Outagamie County Sheriff's Sergeant Ryan Carpenter says that Manishkumar Patel bought her a smoothie about a week or two before her second miscarriage. Darshana Patel noticed white powder on the rim and, feigning illness, took the drink back to her office. Carpenter says Darshana Patel sent a sample of the smoothie to a California lab for analysis, suspecting she had been slipped the abortion pill known as RU-486. She approached the sheriff's department when it tested positive for the drug.

I am thankful that the law is willing to acknowledge this as a crime, given that if the woman (Darshana) had wanted the drug, there would be no criminal charges to be filed. Wisconsin is one of 37 states with a "fetal homicide" law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Under the 1998 law, anyone who attacks a pregnant woman and injures or kills her fetus could face life in prison.

On the other hand, I am discouraged that consent seems to be the measure of morality (as is often the case today in sexual ethics). I am also uncertain as to why the charge is "attempted" homicide if his plan apparently worked and she miscarried. The reporting is not that clear. It sounded like this is the third pregnancy and she noticed this time, but I found other reports that say she got the test results back too late and this was the second miscarriage.

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