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.Bei Bei suffered a heartbreaking loss, a suicide attempt, being abandoned by her partner. And now she is in prison?
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.
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.
Miriam Zoila Pérez lives in Brooklyn where she is a writer, doula, and more. She is acting as a consultant on Mama's Day for Forward Together.
This blog is part of Strong Families Mama’s Day Our Way blog series. Make and send a custom Mama’s Day e-card at www.mamasday.org. Strong Families is a national initiative led by Forward Together. Our goal is to change the way people think, act and talk about families.