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The Anti-Abortion Push To Criminalize Pregnancy

The Anti-Abortion Push To Criminalize Pregnancy

On Friday an Indiana state court granted Bei Bei Shuai’s bond request, just a week after the Indiana Supreme Court declined to review an earlier ruling holding that the state’s feticide laws may be used against pregnant women who harm themselves.

Shuai’s case has mobilized women’s rights advocates nationwide, and with good reason. Shuai’s has been in jail since March 2011 when she was arrested for the murder of her 3-day old daughter Angel.

The girl was delivered by Cesarean section just after Shuai’s unsuccessful suicide attempt in December 2010. At the time Shuai was 33 weeks pregnant and was devastated when her boyfriend abandoned her. She left a suicide note saying she intended to take her own life ad her baby’s life rather than leave them abandoned. She then ate rate poison.

Friends found Shuai and took her to the hospital where her Shuai consented to every test and procedure she was told by hospital officials would ensure the safety of her baby. After the emergency C-section the baby seemed to do well. But soon weakened and, with with Shuai’s consent and on advice of her doctors, the baby was removed from life support and died in Shuai’s arms.

In March 2011 Shuai was charged with murder and attempted feticide. She’s been in jail ever since.

At the heart of Shuai’s case are laws in force at both the federal level an in at least 36 states that make it a crime to cause death or injury to a fetus. The idea behind those laws was to recognize a second victim in crimes against pregnant women. “These laws were passed by the legislature to protect women from third-party violence, not to be used against women themselves,” Emma Ketteringham, one of Shuai’s lawyers, said, in a media briefing.

But the Indiana Court of Appeals didn’t agree. In a 2-1 decision in February, the court, said Ketteringham, “made it quite clear that pregnant women are no different than third parties when it comes to their pregnancies.”

So it would appear that the state of Indiana believes that any pregnant woman can and should be prosecuted for doing, or attempting to do, anything that would put her health at risk, regardless of the outcome of the pregnancy and regardless if such prosecutions were the intent behind the state’s feticide laws. And Indiana is not alone. Iowa and Mississippi have initiated similar criminal investigations against pregnant women.

Nor surprisingly, anti-abortion groups have stayed silent on the Shuai and Taylor cases, refusing to comment on whether the state should be prosecuting pregnant women under any and all circumstances.

Meanwhile Shuai has no money, no ability to earn money after being in jail for a year, and she is struggling to maintain her health and grieve for the loss of her daughter while anti-abortion zealots march on in their crusade to criminalize pregnancy.

Related Stories:

When Is Suicide Not Suicide? When You’re Pregnant

Woman Charged With Feticide Gets Bond

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Photo from vectorportal via flickr.

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11:28PM PDT on May 27, 2012

Okay, so, she changes her mind and tells the doctors to do everything in their power to save her baby, but the baby ends up dying, and she's a criminal because of that? That makes ZERO SENSE. What's next, state that I am utterly ASHAMED to call home? A woman has a late-term miscarriage, and you arrest her for THAT? Where does it stop? Shuai's lawyer is right--those laws ARE in place to protect pregnant women from, say, abusive partners. The only reason the court ruled that way is because they're all anti-choice misogynists who want to hold this woman's previous suicide attempt from roughly TWO YEARS AGO against her. They need to keep fighting it. That is complete and utter misogynistic bullsh*t.

4:41AM PDT on May 24, 2012

"The anti-abortion push to criminalise pregnancy"

Misleading title, there.

There's absolutely no suggestion that it's PREGNANCY which is being considered a criminal activity.

9:49PM PDT on May 23, 2012

If men would get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament!

9:48PM PDT on May 23, 2012

If men would get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.

7:32PM PDT on May 23, 2012

When in doubt, scrape it out.

3:55PM PDT on May 23, 2012

that woman did not deserve jail, she needs a therapist, she obviously have some issues that need to be examined, no normal or sane person would do something like that, and people do reckless things when depressed. It is a psychological issue.

7:16AM PDT on May 23, 2012

Every - EVERY - child deserves to be born into a family that WANTS that child - and is ready to care for it!

7:15AM PDT on May 23, 2012

Every - EVERY - child deserves to be born into a family that WANTS that child - and is ready to care for it!

6:49AM PDT on May 23, 2012

@ Catt R

I don't think we should go that route obviously because it does infringe on a woman's rights but I think it is tragic to bring a child into the world broken, all because of a woman's lack of self control. That opinion however does not apply in this case though, this woman here needed mental help and was not pursuing a vice. I actually made that clear at the beginning of my first post. As for the content of the second post, what I was trying to express was that not all women become helpless after and unable to provide for ourselves and our children just because we are young or single or both. I think that it is important for young women who may be in a situation similar to here from someone like me who managed to carve a pretty nice life for myself with relative ease. I won't lie and say that it was never hard work but then not everything worth doing is going to be easy. Some comments in this thread including the one I responded to paint mothers as helpless people who will starve without handouts from others. The assistance is important for a hand up but no good as a hand out. I truly believe that anyone who tries (and has no delusions of grander) and is willing to work hard, learn from failure and keep going can eventually succeed. I just wanted to let people know that motherhood is not the end of all things that some people here have described it as.

Hope that clears things up.

6:38AM PDT on May 23, 2012

@ Catt R

Firstly I would like to thank you for your kind comments but I also wanted to address what I can only imagine were misconceptions of my statements. I was not attacked by my sons father, in fact I married him a year after my son was born. I don't like him much anymore as we are divorced and he can be an a*s but I never needed to fight him off. Also my family IS proud of me and they should be, I have worked very hard with school and I am an excellent mother with bright, healthy, articulate children. I deserve every bit of respect I get from others and from myself. I live my life well and strive to be above reproach because I want to, not because I am doing some sort of penance. I do not look at my kids as a penance and never have, they are my joy, my sunshine and in no small part my identity. I am a mother and if I never accomplished anything else in my life, that would have been ok because I have them. I have accomplished much though with my little ones right there with me. We are a team as well as a very happy family. I will however say that I became aware of my responsibility to protect them the moment I was aware of their existence. My statement before to that effect was simply that I wonder if women would hesitate to drink or do drugs if she knew there would be legal consequences since all to often the damage they are doing to their baby is not enough incentive to stop. I don't think we should go that route obviously because it does infringe on a w

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