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.
Photo from vectorportal via flickr.