Bei Bei Shuai came to Indiana from China in search of a better life. She learned English, began growing a restaurant business, and met a fellow immigrant with whom she planned to build a family.
When she was 33 weeks pregnant, that better life began to unravel. The father -- who was separated from his wife, had told Bei Bei he loved her, and promised to help raise the child -- blindsided her by telling her he no longer loved her and announcing he was moving back to another state. Distraught, humiliated, and thousands of miles away from her parents and other family, Bei Bei tried to end her life on Christmas Eve.
Luckily, a friend found her and rushed her to the hospital. There, Bei Bei followed all of the doctor’s instructions to save her baby, including taking several rounds of medication and agreeing to an emergency cesarean surgery. Bei Bei named the baby Angel, and sat holding her daughter’s hand as soon as doctors would let her out of bed.
Then tragedy struck again. Doctors informed Bei Bei that Angel would not survive and needed to be taken off life support. She was so devastated she had to be sedated.
Bei Bei should have been allowed to grieve, heal, and begin to rebuild her life. But shortly after she left the hospital, she was charged with murder under an Indiana law intended to punish third parties who attack pregnant women and cause them to lose their pregnancies. She spent over a year in jail and is now awaiting trial on bail.
Bei Bei is not a criminal. I teach Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies at Butler University in Indianapolis and I reached out to Bei Bei when I heard about her story. The woman I’ve come to know is a kind, shy soul who has struggled to overcome the mental health issues that led to her suicide attempt.
Terry Curry, Marion County Prosecutor, seems to be the only person in the state who wants to try Bei Bei with murder and he is the only person with the power to do so. Even the legislators who wrote the law being used against her say it was never intended to be applied to pregnant women. If Bei Bei is convicted it not only ruins any chance she might have to rebuild her life but sets a dangerous legal double standard for pregnant women suffering from mental health issues. Moreover, it would establish a basis for investigating and possibly arresting every pregnant woman who experiences a pregnancy loss or disagrees with her doctor’s advice.
This will not help pregnant women and babies. In fact, it will hurt them, as pregnant women who need help will be afraid to ask for it, lest they be arrested, surveilled, and harassed like Bei Bei Shuai.
Please join me in asking Terry Curry to drop the murder charges against Bei Bei Shuai, and allow a grieving woman to begin putting her life back together.
For more information and to donate to Bei Bei’s legal defense fund, please visit: www.freebeibei.org