A Chinese immigrant who is being prosecuted under the state’s feticide and homicide laws after she ate rat poison in a suicide attempt when she was eight months pregnant on Friday rejected a plea deal with prosecutors that would have negated a murder charge in the death of her fetus.
Bei Bei Shuai is currently out on bond after serving more than a year in jail. She turned down prosecutors’ offer to drop a murder charge if she pleads guilty to a lesser charge of attempted feticide. If she had accepted the deal Shuai would have faced six to 20 years in prison with the possibility of a suspended sentence.
Defense attorney Linda Pence said Shuai wants to clear her name and avoid the stigma of guilt. “She intends to fight these charges vigorously,” Pence said. “She doesn’t want any other woman to go through what she has gone through” reports ABC news.
Several medical and women’s rights groups have filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting Shuai. Some briefs claim that a conviction in the case could set a precedent by which pregnant women could be prosecuted for smoking or other behavior that authorities deemed a danger to their unborn child. A lawyer with the New York-based National Advocates for Pregnant Women is assisting in Shuai’s defense. “She never intended to kill her baby. She intended to kill herself, and she would care for her baby in the afterlife. She wishes she would have died instead,” Pence said.
Shuai’s case has drawn national attention as the trend toward prosecuting pregnant women and criminalizing pregnancy grows at an alarming rate. Supporters of the state’s feticide law claim the law was never intended to be used against pregnant women, but those claims matter little now that the state’s hard right have gotten their hands on the power to prosecute pregnant women.
Make no mistake about it, Shuai’s prosecution is an intentional and deliberate message to the women of Indiana: your body is a matter of public property and concern and your pregnancy will be monitored by the state. Shuai was right to reject the deal even though she now finds herself the unwitting crusader against criminalizing pregnancy.
Photo from steakpinball via flickr.