On 23 December 2010, a Chinese-born woman living in the United States attempted to take her own life. She survived but she was also 33 weeks pregnant.
Bei Bei Shuai had been recently abandoned by her boyfriend who had previously promised to marry and start a family with her and she was desperate. After being admitted to hospital though, she did survive.
One week later she was admitted to hospital once again as her her unborn baby, Angel was showing signs of distress. Angel had suffered bleeding in the brain and died during the early hours of 3 January 2011. Shuai has been charged with her murder.
The Guardian newspaper reports that:
For the first time in Indiana’s 196-year history, the state has applied felony charges against a woman that hold Shuai criminally liable for the outcome of her pregnancy.
The feticide law, introduced in Indiana in 1979, was designed with violent third parties in mind: abusive boyfriends or husbands who attacked their pregnant partners, causing them to lose their unborn babies.
It was enhanced to carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in 2007 after a bank robbery in which a pregnant woman was shot in the stomach, killing her fetus but leaving her alive.
Speaking exclusively to The Guardian, Shuai said:
“It was a really bad experience. I thought nobody would care about me anymore, that I was a worthless person with no future.
But I learned a great deal. I learned that my life wasn’t the worst as I thought it was. Everything that has happened has made me think that I am so blessed.
I want to stay and fight this case. I have the best legal team, and I’m not afraid anymore to face the charges.”
Shuai was held in a high security prison for more than a year. If convicted of murder she faces possible life in prison.
Shuai’s defence lawyer says that Shuai was suffering from severe mental illness at the time of her suicide attempt and wants the charges dropped. But the prosecutor is determined to see the case go to court. The prosecutor has said:
“It’s my job to enforce the criminal code as enacted by our legislature and that’s what our legislature has determined. What we allege is that her actions were directed specifically at the unborn child. It’s not that she was trying to take her own life, it was that she was trying to take the life of her foetus.”
In Australia each state and territory has a separate criminal code. Some states do have criminal offences that apply to killing an unborn child, some deal with the issue through abortion law. In no Australian state is the crime considered to be akin to murder.
If you need immediate help, you can contact:
Lifeline – 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800
MensLine Australia – 1300 78 99 78