In a horrifyingly insensitive and counterintuitive move, murder charges were filed against an Indiana woman who attempted suicide in a late stage of her pregnancy. Bei Bei Shuai ingested rat poison in December, trying to end her life; she was taken to the hospital by friends and got help in time. When her child was born, though, she was first put on life support but then removed when doctors determined that they could not save her. Shuai is now facing feticide charges.
Robin Marty (who you may know from Care2) wrote a great short piece for RHRealityCheck, dissecting the situation. “Was the poisoning really just an attempt at a do it yourself abortion, as the prosecution appears to be claiming?” she asks. If these charges are successful, as she points out, this could easily lead to a slippery slope, where women who experience any kind of harm during pregnancy can be accused of trying to abort (or “murder”) their fetus.
Indiana is poised to pass a “fetal pain” law which would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks, claiming that after that point, the fetus can feel pain. And in 2009, the Indiana legislature passed a bill that imposed harsh penalties on crimes that lead to the death of an unborn child at any stage of development. This law was passed after a bank teller was shot during an attempted robbery and her unborn twins died, so it looks like this is the first application of the feticide bill to a pregnant woman who tried to kill herself.
The issue is that we don’t know why Shuai tried to ingest rat poison – it seems more like she was simply trying to end her life than to willfully kill her fetus. Either way, as Robin points out, the prosecutor is deciding the motive – talk about taking away women’s agency. Let’s hope that Shaui’s attorney is successful in her attempts to get the charges thrown out.
Photo from Flickr.
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