July 17, 2012 — An Indiana woman who attempted suicide while pregnant and was charged in the death of her infant rejected a plea deal on Friday that would have negated a murder charge, the AP/Miami Herald reports (Wilson, AP/Miami Herald, 7/13).
Indiana resident Bei Bei Shuai attempted to kill herself in December 2010, when she was 33 weeks pregnant, by consuming rat poison. Shuai was hospitalized, and the infant was delivered via caesarean section but died a few days later. In March 2011, Shuai was charged with murder and attempted feticide under an Indiana law that makes it a crime to cause death or injury to a fetus. In May, a state court granted her $50,000 bond, but courts have declined to overturn the charges (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/22).
If Shuai had accepted the plea deal to the lesser charge of attempted feticide, she would have faced six to 20 years in prison or a suspended sentence, according to the AP/Herald. She has until the end of August to change her mind and accept the deal, but defense attorney Linda Pence said Shuai will "fight these charges vigorously" because she "doesn't want any other woman to go through what she has gone through."
Friend-of-the-court briefs by medical and women's rights groups argue that Shuai's conviction could set a precedent to prosecute women for smoking or other behaviors while pregnant.
Judge Sheila Carlisle gave the defense and prosecution 30 days to file legal briefs (AP/Miami Herald, 7/13).