Don’t Be Suicidal While Pregnant – You’ll Be Charged With Murder

shutterstock_110934878A pregnant Indiana resident who attempted suicide by ingesting rat poison is now being charged with murder. I’m trying to wrap my head around a story of a pregnant suicidal woman charged with murder.

Bei Bei Shuai, a 36-year-old Chinese immigrant from Shanghai ingested the poison in 2010 after becoming distraught over a break-up. Her suicide attempt was unsuccessful, and she was hospitalized. Today News reports:

She was hospitalized and doctors detected little wrong with the fetus’ health for the first few days. Shuai gave birth to Angel Shuai on Dec. 31. Three days later, the baby died from bleeding in the brain. Medical staff reported her to the police; her lawyers said it was a suicide attempt.

Indiana has a fetal murder law. It is intended to be applied to people who attack pregnant women – not the women themselves. But the Associated Press reports that prosecutors are arguing that “the 1997 fetal murder statute Bei Bei Shuai faces doesn’t exempt women who intentionally end their own pregnancy, and that a suicide note Shuai wrote proves she meant for her fetus to die as well.”

She attempts suicide and fails, but in the process does lethal damage to the baby. This story is tragic. But this woman shouldn’t be charged with murder. Suicidal pregnant women should not be charged with murder. When extreme cases are held up and made an example of – all women suffer.

Obviously you can prove intention in this case because of the note. But what defines “intention” and who decides when a mother intends to harm her baby? Will drug users who miscarry or deliver stillborns be subject to the same law? What about someone riding without a seat belt? It’s obvious harm can be done in that case. If a pregnant mother “willingly” engages in activity that can potentially harm her fetus, will a case like this set a precedent for charging women for murder or manslaughter?

I think it is tragic and awful that she intended to kill herself and her baby. I also don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for women who engage in risky behaviors while pregnant – potentially putting their babies at risk. But when it comes to treating a fetus like a person with its own rights – I refuse to give on that issue. As women, we are too plagued by legislators trying to dictate what happens with our bodies when we become pregnant. I’m not willing to open the doors for anymore “personhood” nonsense, just because I am disgusted by one isolated story of a distraught woman.

(photo: Sam72/

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  • Paul White

    Well. Score one for our attitudes to mental health *sigh*

  • Blueathena623

    And what should she have done in this situation. Hello dr, please induce me or perform a c-section right now because I’m about to commit suicide, and if I’m unsuccessful I don’t want to be charged with murder.

    • Guerrilla Mom

      It is truly unbelievable.

  • Justme

    I guess this is one of the stories that you guys were talking about that SHOULD be garnering more discussion and outrage than a story about, ahem….passing off the diaper duties.

    And like it was said in the comments regarding that article, I can only say….this is horrible and a travesty of the justice system. Hopefully the judge in the case will have knowledge of mental illness and “sentence” her to psychiatric care instead of the penitentiary.

  • Rachelle

    Even with the States skewed legal system and the disgusting nature of her even BEING CHARGED, if I were her lawyer I’d claim not guilty for cause of insanity – because clearly she was not in her right mind. Secondly, if I were the judge, I would dismiss the case on the basis that the doctors who had checked out the fetus after the attempt found “nothing wrong” initially, so she didn’t kill the fetus, thus she didn’t commit murder. What I would DO is ensure she had psychological follow up, however, to help deal with the emotional consequences of 1) the botched relationship that lead to the suicide attempt, 2) the botched suicide attempt, 3) the reality of harming herself and her baby, and lastly, 4) her child dying. She has A LOT of grief to deal with.

    Wow… I just want to give this woman a hug and protect her. And fuck Indiana.

  • CrazyFor Kate

    People just don’t understand suicidal feelings. They think it’s a whim, or a demand for attention, or something that can be overcome like a regular bad mood. I don’t think they understand what it is to be desperate, to feel you have no other choice, to be consumed with emotional pain. When you’re in a new country and have lost your partner (who might have been her only friend, etc) and have a baby on the way, I can imagine being terrified and feeling alone. I just hope this woman has a support system in the future, because no way are her problems going away…

  • elzie

    All this makes me want to do if I choose to suicide while pregnant is NOT seek help. NOT change my mind. ENSURE that I actually die. Because I wouldn’t want to live with the guilt of harming my unborn child. Sometimes the pain is so unbearable that people feel it’s their only option. My only advice would be do not seek help in the end. Relax and allow death to come. You will have to live with this for the rest of your life.

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