Indiana woman charged with feticide

This is just heartbreaking. Via RH Realty Check comes word that an Indiana woman who lost her child after a failed suicide attempt is being charged with “feticide.”

Last December, Bei Bei Shuai attempted suicide by eating rat poison. She was in the late stages of pregnancy at the time. A friend took Shuai to the hospital where she gave birth on December 31st, but her daughter Angel died on on January 2nd. Now the county prosecutor is bringing charges of murder and feticide against Shuai.

From The Indystar:

Attorney Linda Pence, who’s representing Bei Bei Shuai, 34, said the charges are not only unwarranted, but they could prevent other troubled mothers from seeking the help they need.

This case is disturbing in a number of ways. Someone who attempts suicide needs help and support, not to be subjected to criminal charges. While clearly in a difficult mental state Shuai gave birth and then lost the child, an experience that had to be difficult even if she wasn’t looking forward to carrying the pregnancy to term. The state of Indiana is clearly prioritizing the life of the fetus over the life of the mother. Shuai is being charged because of harm she caused her own body, which resulted in harm to the fetus. As Robin Marty points out:

If Shuai is charged as such, the state has just declared that any pregnant woman who is hurt in any way that could be seen as self-inflicted could be charge as a potential self-aborter and murderer, as nearly happened in Iowa last year, or passed in Utah after that.

It’s hard to see this as anything but a prosecutor trying to cram their anti-choice politics into the case of a woman who needs help, not jail time. Shuai is currently being held without bond.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • Franzia Kafka

    This is such bullcrap because the U.S. has a history of court cases never holding men responsible for putting pregnant women in situations that could harm a fetus; only women are held responsible for that. For example, there was case I believe in the early ’90s where a battered pregnant woman reported to a Wyoming emergency room to be treated for injuries she sustained at the hands of her abuser, but was later arrest for testing positive for alcohol. The abuser was never charged with child endangerment, even though his actions were probably far more potentially dangerous to the fetus than drinking.

    Fetal-protectionist rhetoric has nothing to do with “protecting fetuses,” but has more to do with punishing women who don’t fit the angelic, martyr-like, self-sacrificial model of motherhood that’s expected of pregnant women.

  • Kristen

    I’m a little confused about abortion law in some states. Is there a comprehensive list somewhere on the internet that shows different states’ abortion laws? Mainly, I don’t get how someone can be charged with something called ‘feticide’ when abortion is legal in the U.S. I think I’m missing something. Can someone educate me on this?

  • queerhummingbird

    thanks for bringing this up.

    one quick problem i have with the post however: “It’s hard to see this as anything but a prosecutor trying to cram their anti-choice politics into the case of a woman who needs help, not jail time.” i’m not sure that anyone ‘needs jail time.’

    kristen: NARAL has a map of the U.S. ( with state laws pertaining to contraception and abortion (but it does not include other reproductive health laws).

    i believe that an abortion at the time when the woman harmed herself would have been illegal, and thus the ‘death’ of the fetus would be feticide. but i would look more into it, it’s an interesting distinction.