Devastating Decision in Indiana: Pregnancy Losses May Be Treated as Murder

Just in time for Mother's Day, the Indiana Supreme Court let stand a Court of Appeals decision that tells mothers that if they experience a pregnancy loss they can be charged with the crimes of feticide and murder.

In March of 2011, Bei Bei Shuai was charged with murder and attempted feticide after becoming so depressed during her pregnancy that she attempted suicide and suffered the loss of her newborn. Because she was charged with murder, she was not entitled to bail while her case was pending. Ms. Shuai has been incarcerated in the Marion County Jail for over a year.

In a staggering disregard for medical expertise, the Indiana Supreme Court rejected the professional opinion of more than 80 leading medical, public health, and health advocacy organizations and experts who opposed the decision to keep a woman who suffered a pregnancy loss imprisoned as an alleged murderer.

There is no question that the Indiana legislature passed its feticide laws to respond to third party attacks on pregnant women and not to criminalize a suicide attempt by a pregnant woman, or create criminal penalties for pregnant women who suffer miscarriages and stillbirths.

In the only bit of good news, the Court of Appeals decision unanimously held that Ms. Shuai is entitled to bail. At the same time, however, two of the three justices held that the feticide and murder statutes may be applied to pregnant women who suffer pregnancy losses.

In a strong dissent, Court of Appeals Justice Riley wrote, "the feticide statute should only be applied to third-party conduct which endangers or harms a non-viable fetus . . . . If the feticide statute is interpreted as advocated by the State and applied to women's prenatal conduct, it could have an unlimited scope and create an indefinite number of new 'crimes.' For example, many over-the-counter cold remedies and sleep aids contain warnings that pregnant women should not use them without medical supervision..."

As a result of the Supreme Court's refusal to review the lower court opinion:

• Bei Bei Shuai, a woman who was abandoned by the father of her baby and who suffered from depression so profound that she attempted suicide, will be subjected to the ordeal of a murder trial in which every aspect of the most unimaginably painful time in her life will be recounted in open court and twisted to cast her as a baby-killer.
• Feticide laws urged by organizations, including the National Right to Life Committee, and passed based on the promise that they would not be used to punish pregnant women will, in fact, be used to punish pregnant women.
• Every woman who suffers a miscarriage or stillbirth under circumstances any outsider considers suspicious could be subjected to a police investigation and charged with a crime.
• Every woman who engages in any action - from smoking cigarettes to insisting upon a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean surgery) - could be charged with attempted feticide, a law that applies to all stages of pregnancy.
• The precedent establishes that if a woman has an abortion that is deemed illegal in Indiana (with or without Roe still on the books) she could be charged with the crime of murder.

Not only do we have to refuse to go "back to the back alley," we must now also insist that "we won't go to jail."

Keep in mind that organizations and individuals who identify themselves as "pro-life" have assured the public that their efforts to re-criminalize abortion and establish the unborn as separate legal persons would not result in the prosecution and imprisonment of women who end their pregnancies. Yet, not a single such organization has opposed Ms. Shuai's arrest and incarceration.

Help NAPW expose the lies and deceit of the organizations that put feticide laws on the books with the promise that they would be used to protect pregnant women from third party attacks and now are silent as they are used to attack pregnant women.

NAPW is committed to continuing the fight for Bei Bei Shuai. Please help us.

You can start by signing this petition.