OPINION | Local trial represents a call for student action

Indiana is prosecuting a local woman, Bei Bei Shuai, after she attempted suicide while pregnant.

This case bears far-reaching implications for women nationwide because it grants the state more power over the choices of pregnant women.

Since the outcome of this trial ultimately affects all women, Butler University students can and should get involved.

All the events leading up to these proceedings began in December 2010.

During this time, Shuai was 33 weeks pregnant, and her partner had abandoned her.

Shuai then attempted suicide by ingesting rat poison at a local hardware store.

Although she survived the suicide attempt, her child passed away three days after a Caeserean section was performed.

Then, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry decided to prosecute Shuai, an Indianapolis citizen and Chinese immigrant, approximately a month later on charges of murder and feticide.

Based on these charges, the state placed her in jail in March 2011.

After much litigation, consciousness-raising and activism, Shuai’s defense team raised enough money to post a $50,000 bail more than a year later in May 2012.

Since then, the defense team has continued raising awareness about Shuai’s case and how it affects people nationwide as it awaits an upcoming trial in April.

Last week, a public forum about Shuai’s plight took place at Butler.

Shuai’s defense attorney Linda Pence, physician and legal counsel David Orentlicher and Lynn Paltrow, National Advocates for Pregnant Women executive director, moderated the event.

Among several points discussed, one of the main takeaways was that this is a local issue Butler students can and should have a direct say about.

People might shrug this case off, thinking it has no impact on them.

But as stated earlier, this trial sets a dangerous precedent for women everywhere.

Suicide is not illegal in Indiana, so Shuai did not break any law in that sense.

So the logic behind the prosecution is that Shuai’s attempted suicide ultimately amounts to a feticide, or “intentional murder of the fetus.”

Feticide, though, was added into Indiana law to prosecute third parties who kill the fetus while assaulting the mother, according to Indiana legal code.

This complete reworking of the law to legislate against women’s bodies and limit mothers’ autonomy is reprehensible.

The proper response to a suicide attempt is medical treatment and counseling, not a trial criminalizing the mother.

Students, fortunately, can do much more than throw their hands up in the air.

Instead of standing by idly, students can write to Indiana’s legislators and the Marion County prosecutor calling for the trial to be dropped.

They can continue to raise awareness about Shuai’s case through word-of-mouth and social media.

And they can perform direct actions, including protests and sit-ins, calling for the charges against her to be dropped.

“It’s important for students who live in the area to make their voices heard, especially in an age of political turmoil surrounding women’s rights,” said senior Craig Middleton, a social media consultant for Shuai’s defense team.

Butler prides itself on community involvement, from volunteering to cultural trips.

This trial represents a social issue in our backyard that students can have an impact on.

If the student body allows this case to pass by without taking any action, then it fails to live up to the “Community of Care” mantra.

Let’s be informed, caring and active in this community, and take a stand for Bei Bei Shuai.


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