Woman in Indiana faces 45 years in prison for “attempted feticide” after attempted suicide

The War on Women continues. Katha Pollitt (my emphasis and paragraphing; h/t the excellent aggregator Dictynna’s Net):

In December 2010 Shuai was running a Chinese restaurant in Indianapolis with her boyfriend, Zhiliang Guan, by whom she was eight months pregnant. Just before Christmas, he informed her that he was married and had another family, to which he was returning. When Shuai begged him to stay, he threw money at her and left her weeping on her knees in a parking lot.

Despairing, she took rat poison and wrote a letter in Mandarin saying she was killing herself and would “take this baby with me to Hades”; friends got her to the hospital just in time to save her life. Eight days later her baby, Angel, was delivered by Caesarean section and died of a cerebral hemorrhage within four days.

Three months later, the newly elected prosecutor, Terry Curry—a Democrat—brought charges, claiming that the rat poison that almost killed Shuai had killed her baby. If convicted, she faces forty-five to sixty-five years in prison.

It is hard to know where to begin listing what’s wrong with this case. Consider the health ramifications: attempting suicide is not a crime in Indiana. It’s the tragic result of mental illness, depression and extreme emotional distress; and it’s not uncommon for pregnant women to seriously consider it, or even try it.

As Pollitt says, there’s a lot wrong here. For starters:

According to a 2010 study in Obstetrics & Gynecology, suicide is the fifth leading cause of death among pregnant women. Pregnant women in crisis need and deserve compassion and treatment. But if Shuai is convicted, what pregnant woman will seek help? “Every major medical and public health organization that has considered the issue has concluded that it is dangerous for maternal and fetal health to hold women criminally liable for their pregnancy outcomes,” says Emma Ketteringham, director of legal advocacy for National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), which is co-counsel to Shuai’s defense.

Pollitt unpacks the way this kind of law, which was originally designed to be used against violent abusers of pregnant women, is being turned against the women themselves.

Of course, that’s all part of the plan, part of the “antiabortion strategy to build up the legal status of the fetus as a person in so many parts of the law that when the Supreme Court finally revisits Roe v. Wade, a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy will look like a bizarre exception.”

Abuse of these laws is certain, however. If a woman is responsible during pregnancy for any behavior that produces a bad outcome, what’s to stop a zealous prosecutor from making quite a reputation for “justice” in a country where “15-20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage.”

It’s a target-rich environment, in a country where opportunistic prosecutors are slobbered over like gods by a Death Wish–worshiping public. We do love us our punishing prosecutors, don’t we. (Psst: This is why our kids won’t have Social Security.)

As Pollitt says:

[T]he state portrays Shuai as a heartless and calculating home wrecker … But who is really being cold-blooded here? The woman who tried to kill herself, who held her baby for five hours as her life slipped away and wept inconsolably when she died? … Or the prosecution[?]

“Newly-elected prosecutor” Terry Curry — you with the license to punish. You wouldn’t be trading lives for votes in Marion County Indiana, would you?


(To follow on Twitter or to send links: @Gaius_Publius)

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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