Woman who attempted suicide accused of murdering her baby

Sat, Apr 16, 2011, 01:00

A WOMAN accused of murdering her four-day-old baby girl by trying to kill herself with rat poison while pregnant has become a cause celebre for US women’s groups and civil liberties groups.

Bei Bei Shuai (34), a restaurant owner who moved to the US from China 10 years ago, was pregnant and planning to marry her boyfriend until she learned late last year that he was already married and he would be abandoning her.

A few days later, on December 23rd, she went to a hardware store, bought rat poison pellets, went back to her flat in Indianapolis and swallowed some. But she did not die immediately and was persuaded by friends to go to hospital. She was given treatment to counteract the poison and gave birth on New Year’s Eve, but her daughter, Angel, suffered seizures and died after four days.

Ms Shuai then had a second breakdown and spent a month in a psychiatric ward, after which she left to stay with friends and began rebuilding her life. But in March she was arrested and charged with murder and attempted foeticide. She now faces life imprisonment.

“This case has huge implications for pregnant women, not only in Indiana but across the country,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union.

“If we allowed the state to put a woman in jail for anything that could pose a risk to her pregnancy, there would be nothing to stop the police putting in jail a woman who has a drink of wine or who smokes. So where do you draw the line?”

Ms Kolbi-Molinas said there had been an alarming rise in the number of such cases across the US. Some women’s groups put the rise down to pressure on prosecutors from anti-abortion groups.

Ms Shuai has been held in Marion County jail, where she is segregated from other prisoners. She was last in court for a bail hearing on Wednesday but the judge, Sheila Carlisle, has not yet ruled whether she will be kept in custody. The judge is expected to begin hearing a motion for the case’s dismissal next month.

(Guardian service)