Today, the Indiana Court of Appeals heard testimony on the case of Bei Bei Shuai, the pregnant woman who ingested rat poison in a suicide attempt, causing her to go into preterm labor at 33 weeks to a baby girl that died soon after.
Shuai, who survived her attempted suicide only to be arrested and held without bail since this March, has become the poster child for the question as to whether the rights of a fetus actually outweigh the rights of the woman who carries it. Ironically, she has now been imprisoned for nine months — longer than she ever carried the baby girl that she is accused of murdering.
Numerous groups have filed friend of the court briefings, asking for the state to release Shuai because you cannot be prosecuted for a suicide attempt. But the state has been determined to see the case not as a suicide attempt, but as an act of murder of a viable fetus, and is punishing her to the fullest extent that they can.
According to the Greenfield Reporter, “Attorney Linda Pence argues that Indiana’s law was written to protect fetuses from violence from third parties, not from their own mothers. She says suicide isn’t a crime and Shuai couldn’t have expected to be arrested.” Prosecution, meanwhile, is countering by proclaiming that Shuai “knowingly killed a viable fetus.”
In short, had Shuai been successful in her suicide attempt, she would not be punished. Had she failed in her suicide attempt but the preterm infant survived, she would not be punished. Had she failed in her suicide and not been pregnant, again, she would not be punished. Had she failed in her suicide attempt and not been so advanced in her pregnancy, once again, she would not be punished.
If not for a matter of a few weeks in either direction, Shuai would be offered help. Instead, she is being held in prison indefinitely and without bail. In fact, when asked about dropping charges, the state Attorney General refused. “This case generates strong opinions but the state’s position adheres to the longstanding principle that a jury must weigh any facts, even those that go to the defendant’s intent, and therefore the trial court is where this case belongs. The defense can argue its interpretation of the facts to the jury but the county prosecutor need not accept at face value the defense’s assertions.”
In other words, the state of Indiana thinks that the inadvertent death of a 33 week preterm baby matters far more than the mental health of the woman who was carrying her, and demands that she be judged by a jury, held indefinitely, and used as a cautionary tale rather than be given any sort of treatment or counseling.
By Olek Remesz (wiki-pl: Orem, commons: Orem) [GFDL 1.2 (www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons