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/ Shutterstock.com)