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
- Marion County Prosecutor
- Attorney General
Gregory F. Zoeller
March 14th marked the two-year anniversary of Bei Bei Shuai’s unprecedented and inhumane arrest and prosecution for having experienced such a profound sense of depression while pregnant that she attempted to kill herself. Ms. Shuai survived and, although she did everything she could, including undergoing Cesarean surgery, to ensure that her baby survived as well, her newborn died shortly after birth.
You arrested and charged her on the claim that Indiana’s murder statute (with the death penalty or a sentence of 45-years to-life) and attempted feticide (with a sentence of up to 20 years) may be used to punish pregnant women who cannot guarantee a healthy birth outcome. Ms. Shuai has already served a year in county jail while held there without bail and has now served another year under state control, forced to wear an electronic monitor that she herself must pay for.
Pregnant women are not immune from the things that lead some people to attempt to end their lives. Indiana addresses attempted suicide as a public health issue, not a crime. It is wrong to have a set of separate and unequal laws for pregnant women.
As you know, Indiana’s murder and feticide statutes were passed in response to violent attacks on pregnant women and with the promise that they would be used to protect pregnant women and the fetuses they carry from such assaults. Instead, in a blatant bait and switch maneuver you have used these laws to lock-up pregnant women.
If this prosecution is allowed to go forward, the law will not just apply to one desperate pregnant woman who attempted suicide -- it will:
• Create legal precedent that makes every pregnant or potentially pregnant woman subject to state surveillance, control, and punishment under the attempted feticide law, and make every pregnant woman subject to the feticide and murder laws if she cannot guarantee that her pregnancy goes to term and results in the birth of a healthy child.
• Empower police officers to decide which of the 20-30% of pregnant women who suffer miscarriage and stillbirths each year will be subjected to bedside interrogations, arrests, prosecutions, and imprisonment.
• Leave no doubt that women who intentionally end their pregnancies (more than 60% pf women who have abortions are already mothers) may be charged with murder if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.
Unless it is your intention to create a system of separate and unequal laws for pregnant women and make clear that in Indiana the Pro-Life position is the Pro-Life-Sentences-For-Pregnant-Women position, we urge you to drop all charges and Free Bei Bei Shuai now.
Drop all charges and free Bei Bei Shuai now!
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