Bei Bei Shuai is being held in an Indiana jail right now on murder charges. In 2010, pregnant and alone, she attempted suicide by eating rat poison after her partner abandoned her. With the help of friends, she recovered, but the baby died three
May 17, 2012

Bei Bei Shuai is being held in an Indiana jail right now on murder charges. In 2010, pregnant and alone, she attempted suicide by eating rat poison after her partner abandoned her. With the help of friends, she recovered, but the baby died three days after a Caesarean delivery.

Indiana prosecutors charged her with murder and feticide, and despite her attorneys' best efforts, she lost her appeal to have the charges dropped. The specific statute she is charged under was intended to punish violent attackers who do harm to a fetus in the process of committing a crime but Indiana's prosecutors have decided the statute also applies to depressed pregnant women, evidently.

Like Rennie Gibbs in Mississippi, Bei Bei Shuai is being held captive to a "back door" personhood law. By placing the life of the fetus over the life of the mother, Indiana is imposing their own version of Sharia law on Bei Bei Shuai.

Via RH Reality Check:

Pregnant women are not immune from the mental illness or severe depression that leads some people to attempt to end their lives. Indiana, like virtually every other state in the country, addresses suicide and attempted suicide as a public health issue, not a crime. Prosecutors simply may not decide that a suicide attempt is a public health issue for everyone except pregnant women. Moreover, there is wide consensus that subjecting pregnant women to special criminal penalties does not work. Rather, it undermines legitimate interests in maternal, fetal, and child health by stigmatizing pregnant women and by making them vulnerable to punishment if they seek help of any kind.

If this prosecution is allowed to go forward, the law will not just apply to one desperate pregnant woman who attempted suicide by swallowing rat poison – it will create legal precedent that makes every woman criminally liable for the outcome of her pregnancy. This precedent would mean that women who undergo significant risks to their lives and health by bringing forth life, sometimes undergoing major surgery to do so, may then be arrested as criminals if they are unable to guarantee the birth of a live and healthy baby. In addition, if Ms. Shuai’s prosecution is upheld, it leaves no doubt that women who intentionally end their pregnancies will go to jail as murderers if Roe is ever overturned.

This is what is at stake in this case. Just yesterday we saw the House of Representatives pass a wildly perverted Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Until this year, denouncing and punishing violence against women was a bipartisan act. Now we have a crazed Republican party out there whose "family values" include allowing mail-order brides to be beaten, Native American women to have no protection or recourse along with LGBT women. In essence, what the Republican party has done is to sanction violence against women they don't like very much.

No matter how many reassurances lawmakers give about how fetal protection laws are intended to protect women and the fetus, the fact is that they're using them to create a de facto personhood amendment in practice, if not in writing. I'm assuming that if a mail-order bride becomes pregnant and doesn't stop her spouse from beating her to a pulp causing her to miscarry, this too would be a reason to charge the mail-order bride, give that she would have no legal protection under VAWA, like she did in the past. Taken to its logical extreme, isn't that a likely outcome?

It shouldn't surprise you to learn that one of the chief lobbyists against VAWA was Philip Cook, director of Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (yes, that's irony). The treasurer of that group has a large financial interest in Encounters International, a mail-order (by Internet) bride service specializing in Russian brides. And via Right Wing Watch, this nugget about Timothy Johnson, former GOP chair in North Carolina and convicted wife-beater, who also lobbied against VAWA:

On the other hand, this did happen, as Sarah Posner reported at Alternet:

According to court records, Johnson was arrested on Christmas Day 1995 in Cleveland, Ohio, and was later indicted by a grand jury for two felony counts, one of felonious assault and the other of kidnapping. According to the arrest report, when the police arrived, they found Felix-Johnson bleeding from the face. Timothy Johnson told the officers, according to their report, “I admit it. I hit her, that's the only way I can get her attention.” Felix-Johnson told the officers he restrained her on the couch, holding down her neck. One officer reports Ofelia Felix-Johnson saying that Johnson also punched her breasts, saying that she had no heart, and hit her over the back and buttocks with a plastic shoe rack, breaking the rack. The police report in the court file states that Johnson broke his wife's nose and toes, causing her to be hospitalized.

Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of felony aggravated assault and was sentenced to 18 months in prison, which was suspended. A few years later, Johnson was arrested again on domestic violence charges:

In 1998, Johnson was arrested by the Perrysburg Police, again on domestic violence charges.

According to the police report, Johnson provided a "very similar" account of the incident to that his wife Ofelia and 14-year-old son gave police. Both wife and son reported that Johnson had Ofelia Felix-Johnson in a wrist lock, and when the son attempted to stop Johnson from hurting his mother, Johnson put the son in a head lock such that he was "unable to breathe and was choking up food," according to the police report. After the son broke free, the police report continues, Johnson "put his right hand around [the boy's] throat and pushed [him] against the wall with his back to the wall and choked [the boy] for about 5 seconds."

Taken separately, these two stories would be bad enough. But put them together, and you have an emerging picture of a future for women where they could be jailed for fending off an attacker with deadly force, or jailed for failing to fend off an attacker and losing their child.

Last Friday, an appeals court declined to hear Shuai's case for dropping the charges against her, saying there was no common-law immunity for women who do harm to their fetuses, even if their intent was to do harm to themselves. Meanwhile, the prosecutor is smugly confident about his right to charge her with murder:

"The Legislature has drafted a law that says the intentional killing of a fetus is within the murder statute. We think that intent is present," Curry said. "All we can do from the prosecutor's perspective is enforce the law."

But of course, when it was being debated, it was intended to protect women, dontcha know?

Every woman, liberal or conservative, should be very concerned about seeing their rights stripped before their very eyes. How many Bei Bei Shuais will there be before we stand up and make them stop?

Can you help us out?

For 18 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.