Remembering Bei Bei Shuai on Mama’s Day


This article is one in a series published in collaboration with our sister organization, Strong Families.

Almost two months ago, I wrote about Bei Bei Shuai on my blog, Radical Doula. Now it’s Mama’s Day, and Bei Bei is still in prison.

Bei Bei’s case is heartbreaking, and an unfortunate picture of what it’s like for moms in the U.S. today. Moms are under attack—from legislatures, from state governments, from politicians and law enforcement. Women, particularly who are or become pregnant, are under intense scrutiny. Every action they take puts them at risk of imprisonment. In case you haven’t heard about Bei Bei, let me remind you:

In 2010, Bei Bei Shuai, a pregnant woman living in Indiana became so depressed that she attempted to end her own life. With help from friends who intervened, however, she survived. Although Ms. Shuai did everything she could, including undergoing cesarean surgery, to ensure that her baby survived, her newborn died shortly after birth.

Ms. Shuai was arrested for the crime of murder (defined to include viable fetuses) and feticide (defined to include ending a human pregnancy at any stage). The sentence for murder can be the death penalty or 45 years-to-life. The sentence for attempted feticide is up to 20 years. Both of these kinds of laws are promoted and supported by “pro-life” organizations.

Bei Bei suffered a heartbreaking loss, a suicide attempt, being abandoned by her partner. And now she is in prison?

Moms are not the enemy. Bei Bei needs our support and our mental health services, not our punishment.

Women should not be punished for failing to guarantee a healthy pregnancy outcome. These policies harm our families, our communities and put our lives at risk.

This Mama’s Day, let’s remember Bei Bei, and all the parents who are put in prison instead of given the support and services they need.

Consider signing this petition in support of Bei Bei, courtesy of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Follow Miriam Pérez on twitter: @miriamzperez

Follow Strong Families on twitter: @strongfams