Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Womens Studies

Major Professor

Kim Golombisky, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David Rubin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michelle Hughes Miller, Ph.D.


fetal personhood, feticide, intersectionality, reproductive justice


Purvi Patel is an Indian American woman who, in 2015, was the first U.S. citizen to be convicted under feticide statutes for allegedly attempting her own abortion. Though her 2015 conviction was overturned the same year, the feticide conviction was significant as a legal precedent as well as part of a larger trend criminalizing pregnant women of color. With an eye towards the greater pattern of the criminalization of other pregnant women of color (Boyd, 1999; Faludi, 1991; Humphries, 1999; Mahan, 1996; Roberts, 1997), in this thesis I employ a feminist legal studies methodology and the theoretical frameworks of intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1989, 1991) and Reproductive Justice (Ross and Solinger, 2017; Silliman et al., 2004) to analyze five pro-Patel briefs, two from Patel’s appellate lawyers and three from amici curiae. The four themes present are: fetal personhood; racialized gender; medical privacy and trust; and surveillance, knowledge, and legitimacy. I argue these briefs were not always consistent with the tenets of intersectionality and Reproductive Justice, even as the briefs may have been effective in convincing the Court of Appeals to overturn Patel’s conviction. I conclude with a discussion of the implications of Patel’s case for public health and law. I suggest that criminalization of abortion is harmful to public health and that the feticide mandate as it stands now does not do what it was intended to do, which is to protect the pregnant woman from harm.