Bei Bei Shuai

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Bei Bei Shuai is a Chinese immigrant to the United States who became the subject of international public attention in 2011,[1] 2012[2] and 2013[3] when the authorities of the state of Indiana charged her with murder and attempted feticide after her failed suicide attempt allegedly resulted in the death of the child she was pregnant with. The British newspaper The Guardian described Shuai's case as well as those of other women who lose their unborn babies in cases of maternal drug addiction or a failed suicide attempt, as part of a "creeping criminalisation of pregnancy across America".[4]

Suicide attempt[edit]

Shuai, a Shanghai native, immigrated to the U.S. in the early 2000s with her then-husband. In late 2010, after her marriage fell apart, she became pregnant with the child of another man. When he abandoned her, Shuai attempted to kill herself by taking rat poison. She survived, but her daughter Angel died on 3 January 2011 – 33 weeks after her conception, ten days after the poisoning and two days after her birth in an emergency caesarian section.[4]

Criminal proceedings[edit]

On 14 March 2011, Shuai was charged with the murder and attempted feticide of her child, and was jailed for 435 days.[4] In May 2012, the Supreme Court of Indiana declined to dismiss the charges against her, but allowed her release on bail.[5]

Shuai declined a plea deal that would have her plead guilty to the feticide charge (with a sentence of up to 20 years imprisonment) in return for the withdrawal of the murder charge. She faces a trial for murder with a possible sentence of 45 years to life imprisonment. In June, the prosecution filed a motion to admonish her lawyer, Linda Pence, for prejudicing the potential jury pool by conducting a public campaign for the support of her client. This caused alarm among defense lawyers nationwide, one of whom criticized the motion as a possible attempt at intimidation or to prevent Pence from raising money for her client; chief prosecutor Terry Curry denied this.[6]

In 2013 Shuai pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminal recklessness and was released, having been sentenced to time served. Prosecutor Terry Curry said of the law under which she was initially charged for murder, "There was never any intention to monitor pregnancies." [7][8]

Legal context[edit]

Shuai's case was the first in the history of Indiana in which a woman was prosecuted for murder for a suicide attempt while pregnant.[6] The feticide statute under which she was also prosecuted was intended, when enacted in 1979, to cover acts by violent third parties such as abusive boyfriends.[4] Women's groups in the U.S. warned that Shuai's prosecution could set a precedent for criminalizing a pregnant woman's actions, such as smoking or drinking, or having a miscarriage.[4]

At least 38 U.S. states have similar "fetal homicide" laws, which are increasingly used to prosecute the pregnant women themselves.[9] Recent similar cases in other states include that of Rennie Gibbs (charged with murder in Mississippi for having a stillborn daughter while addicted to cocaine) and at least 40 cases of pregnant women charged in Alabama under a "chemical endangerment" statute originally intended to protect children from the fumes of illicit meth labs run by their parents.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wernicke, Christian (19 April 2011). "Versuchter Selbstmord = Mord". Süddeutsche Zeitung. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  2. ^ "Woman who attempted suicide accused of murdering her baby". The Irish Times. 4 April 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "Acusan a una mujer de 'feticidio' tras intentar suicidarse y provocar la muerte de su bebé". Periodista Digital. 4 March 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Pilkington, Ed (30 May 2012). "Indiana prosecuting Chinese woman for suicide attempt that killed her foetus". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  5. ^ Wilson, Charles (11 May 2012). "Woman who ate poison while pregnant loses appeal". Associated Press. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Pilkington, Ed (15 July 2012). "Indiana prosecutor accused of silencing Chinese woman on murder charge". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  7. ^ "Bei Bei Shuai Pleads Guilty In Baby's Death". Huffington Post. 2 August 2013. Retrieved 30 April 2014. 
  8. ^ Penner, Diana (2 August 2013). "Woman freed after plea agreement in baby's death". The Indianapolis Star (USA Today). 
  9. ^ a b Pilkington, Ed (24 June 2011). "Outcry in America as pregnant women who lose babies face murder charges". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 

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