Bei Bei @ Toronto True Crime Film Fest

77 minutes of a documentary that the subject is so timely as to what is going on in the United States in regards to women and control over their bodies. Directors Rose Rosenblatt and Marion Lipschultz shed light on how powerful the whole right to life and pro life side is in that country and how the law is set up to stop a woman from doing something they judge to be immoral.

Women are not treated equally by the law. This documentary is another clear example of that. We are almost treated like wards of the state for them to decide upon issues having to do with our bodies. Even more precarious is the state of women of ethnicity. If you are not white and female you are very vulnerable. Vulnerable in front of the very justice system which claims to protect all. A marginalized person like Bei Bei is a victim of the law, culture and politics of the country they are living in. Never protected by these systems.

The story of 35-year-old Chinese immigrant Bei Bei Shuai is a sad, tragic and frightening one. She had been in the United States for 10 years. Settled in Indianapolis, Indiana and worked as the manager of a Chinese restaurant. Without any family or relatives in the U.S., Bei Bei was rather isolated.

She fell in love with the restaurant’s chef, Zhi Ziang Quan, 53. The romantic relationship resulted in Bei Bei getting pregnant. Towards the end of the pregnancy Quan left her. Saying he did not want anything to do with Bei Bei or the child. After being abandoned by her boyfriend, Bei Bei fell into a depression. It got so bad she did not want to live anymore so she attempted suicide by injesting rat poison. Bei Bei survived, but her child did not.

Before she was discharged from the hospital, Bei Bei was taken to jail on charges of first degree murder or feticide. She faced up to 85 years if found guilty. It was the first time a woman was charged of this. Fearful she would be deported, Bei Bei did not want to plea, so she remained in jail for 14 months until her lawyer, Linda Pence, got her released on bail.

This all came about because the hospital personnel notified police after death of the baby. Then the coroner assigned to the case, Jolene Clouse, filed the death as a homocide. The chief prosecutor in Indianapolis, Terry Curry, is pro choice and yet he charged Bei Bei.

Despite the risks involved, Bei Bei decides to fight the charge for two reasons. One, is that she wants her deceased daughter Angel to know she loved her and that she felt this was an important issue for women.

Weeks after Bei Bei’s case ended, another Asian woman, Purvei Patel, was charged with murder/feticide. Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, and other states have fetal harm laws on the books. As such, since Bei Bei over 1,000 women have been arrested on these charges. Addicts have been arrested as well as those who have attempted suicide in depressed states.

When George Bush Jr. signed the Fetal Protection Bill in 2004 it was to prosecute those who kill pregnant women for the death of the child as well. It was not to hold pregnant women culpuble in the event of suicide.

This documentary, making its Canadian premiere at the Toronto True Crime Film Fest, serves as a wake up call. Addresses important issues like fetal rights, immigrant rights, criminalization of those with mental health issues, and personhood laws.

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