Does a woman not have the right to commit suicide the moment she becomes pregnant, and if she does, is it murder? A 35-year-old Shanghai-born Chinese immigrant to the United States by the name of Bei Bei Shuai has found herself at the centre of a landmark case in Indiana after a failed suicide attempt killed her 33-week-old foetus. She has been freed on a $50,000 bail after sitting in jail for more than year.
Charles Wilson of the AP with her story in a nut shell:
Shuai was 33 weeks pregnant when she ate rat poison on Dec. 23, 2010, after her boyfriend broke up with her. Shuai was hospitalized and doctors detected little wrong with the fetus’ health for the first few days. The premature girl, Angel Shuai, was delivered by cesarean section Dec. 31, but she died from bleeding in the brain three days later after being removed from life support. Prosecutors charged Shuai with murder in March 2011, arguing that a suicide note she wrote showed she intended to kill her baby as well as herself.
Why this story matters:
Defense attorneys said the law under which Shuai was charged was intended to be used to protect pregnant women, not to be used against them. They argued that prosecuting a woman based on the outcome of her pregnancy violates her constitutional rights to due process, equal treatment and privacy.
Several medical and women’s rights groups filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting Shuai, some saying that a conviction in this case could set a precedent by which pregnant women can be prosecuted for smoking or other behavior deemed a danger to the fetus.
“We still believe that Indiana is sending a very dangerous message to pregnant women that this is how you’ll be treated if you experience a loss and law enforcement thinks it’s your fault,” said Emma Ketteringham, legal advocacy director for the New York-based National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which is assisting in Shuai’s defense.
Also watch: Bei Bei Shuai speaks for herself in a video interview with The Guardian.