Pregnant Woman's Failed Suicide Shouldn't Earn Her a Murder Charge

Jeanne Sager

poisonSuicide attempts rank right up there on the list of "saddest human events ever." But the story of a pregnant woman who tried to commit suicide, only to fail, live, and deliver a baby who eventually died has me stewing.

Because after all that she's been through, Indiana authorities have decided Bei Bei Shuai is a murderess. The death of her daughter Angel, they say, was her fault. Because she consumed the rat poison that resulted in the baby's death while trying to kill herself, Shuai is facing charges of knowingly killing a viable fetus and attempted feticide.

Is this really fair?

Yes, technically, if a woman tries to commit suicide while she's pregnant, she isn't harming only herself. There's a fetus involved too. But can we get back to the root of that sentence? A pregnant woman is SO DESPERATE that she decides she needs to commit suicide. She's trying to take her own life. If there's ever a case for "not mentally competent of considering the results of her actions," it's this one. Suicidal people are not planning on surviving; suicidal pregnant women want to take their baby with them.

But they aren't trying to kill the baby! At least not technically. Charges of "attempted feticide" are inconsistent with her actions. She was suicidal, not homicidal.

Pregnant women walk a tricky road. Everything we do to our own bodies is being done to the fetus. And the law is trekking deeper and deeper into the uterus -- charging women with neglect before a child has even been born. But the punishment should befit the crime.

Shuai was apparently a normal, average pregnant woman, excited about the impending birth, when her boyfriend left her in the lurch. Facing single motherhood, obviously depressed, she tried to kill herself. Somehow she survived the rat poison, but when her daughter, Angel, was born, she only lived three days because her body couldn't handle it. She died in her mother's arms.

So, to recap, Shuai has lost her child. She's been through hell and back. She's been to the point in life where she felt like life wasn't worth it. And the cops want to heap more on there?

It sounds like Shuai has suffered enough trauma. She could use some good therapy, not a prison sentence. What do you think?


Image via shawnzrossi/flickr

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