Fetal homicide is a term used to describe the “murder” of an unborn fetus. Fetal homicide or feticide laws have locked away some of the country’s most ruthless domestic abusers of pregnant women. However, a lot of women have been charged with committing this so-called "murder," mostly on the grounds of drug use while pregnant. But in the case of Bei Bei Shuai, a young Chinese immigrant to the U.S., attempted suicide landed her in jail for both fetal homicide and murder.
Shuai's baby was born alive, but died soon after — allegedly as a result of the rat poison Shuai ingested in an attempt to end her life. The problem with charging Bei Bei and thousands of others with feticide is that suggesting something can be murdered assumes that it had a life to start with. Without discussing when you believe life begins for a fetus, the assumption about life in fetal homicide laws stands in direct contrast to laws about the right to an abortion.
This little loophole is bound to grow wider and will burst open when a case that involves both abortion and feticide comes up. And I think that’s exactly what conservative lawmakers are waiting for, so they can make a case that life begins at conception. And who could blame them, when these laws make it so easy to do so?
What happens if a pregnant woman is on her way to an abortion clinic and someone attacks and assaults her, resulting in the termination of her fetus? Under fetal homicide law, the attacker would get life in prison for murder. How is that fair, when the woman was going to do the same thing?
Surely the criminal should do considerable time in prison, but charging the person with murder gives too much agency to the fetus. Putting the attacker in jail for murder when the woman was intending to terminate the fetus creates a ridiculous double standard. It sends the message that a fetus is a life, except when the mother decides to end that life in an abortion clinic.
If the wording of the laws doesn’t change, then fetal homicide laws as they exist now will eventually sneak up behind a woman’s right to choose, possibly taking it away entirely.