Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Pregnant Woman Who Attempted Suicide Is Charged with Murdering Her Baby

I think this is a thought-provoking case.

A woman who was eight-months pregnant decided to kill herself because her lover, and the father of her child, chose to abandon her.  To kill herself, she swallowed rat poison.  Although she did not die, her baby was born and died shortly afterwards.  The prosecutors (lawyers for the state) claim the baby died because of the poison her mother had taken.

Therefore, the woman is being charged with murder.

I don't know about this case.  I feel a great deal of compassion for the woman. I am not so sure that they should be prosecuting her. She has suffered a great deal already.  What do you think?

Vocabulary to help you understand this article:

to attempt suicide - the important thing to remember is that 'suicide' is a noun.  There is no verb form.  Some students will try to say: 'He suicided."  No... 'He committed suicide.'  So the verb form is "to commit suicide."  If a person tries to commit suicide and fails, he/she has attempted to commit suicide or "She attempted suicide."

thought-provoking - if something is thought-provoking, it makes a person think about complex issues

a case - a legal event is often called a legal case

to abandon s/o - to leave someone permanently

a rat - a bigger version of a mouse; a big rodent; you see a alot of these in the NY City subway system

to be charged with a crime - to be formally accused of a crime; after a person is charged with a crime, the person must appear in court

compassion - a feeling of deep emotion or sympathy for a person

to prosecute s/o - to try to prove that the person is guilty of a crime. A prosecutor is a lawyer who works for the state and who tries to prove that people committed crimes.

an infant - a baby

to stifle any sympathy - to stifle something means to suppress something; to stop something from happening; in this case the prosecutors do not want people in the court to feel any emotion or sympathy for this women

a wave of support - you can see a wave in the ocean; a wave of support means a large amount of support that is moving forward or possibly even getting larger

an advocate - someone who speaks in favor of something

to be beholden to stricter rules - to have to agree to or follow more severe rules than others have to follow

to detect - to find out, to determine

a fetus - this is the medical term for the organism inside the mother's womb after a few months

feticide - anything with "cide" indicates killing.  Homicide - the killing of a person; Suicide - killing yourself; Insecticide - killing a bug; Feticide - killing a fetus.

the fetal murder law - a law was passed in the State of Indiana that if a pregnant woman is killed, the person who killed her will be charged with two homicides (the mother and the baby).  Some people are complaining that this law was not created for a person who wanted to kill herself.

to bar s/o from doing s/t - to legally prohibit someone from doing something

a court motion - papers given to the judge, asking the judge to do something

routine - something done often

the scope of the motion - the scope of anything is the area being covered; this motion covers a large area of issues

to elicit - to draw out, to get, to receive.  'elicit' is usually used with the object: 'response.'  The patient had entered into a coma (a medical condition in which the patient loses consciousness) and the doctors could not elicit any type of response from him.

to plant a question in a juror's mind - to place an idea in a person's mind.  I am not sure which type of question they might be placing in the person's mind though.  I guess that if I were asked, "Dan, are you religious?"  I would say, "No, I'm not religious."  But, then I might think, "OK, since I'm not religious, I don't have to think of this situation as 'murder.' She was trying to kill herself and the baby was a part of her body.  Only a very strict Christian might think she is a murderer."

to adhere to such a restriction - to follow or abide by such a limitation

as for the spectators - as for those who are watching; they would seem to have the freedom to wear buttons that show their support of this woman

on its merits - they want the case to be decided by the facts and not by what people watching television might believe

surveillance - to monitor or watch; basically they are saying that pregnant women should not be held to a higher standard of behavior.  If a non-pregnant woman tries to kill herself, people feel sorry for her, but if a pregnant woman tries to kill herself, people call her a murderer

gender studies - studies about what it is like to be male or female or transgendered

to be adhered to - to be followed

an autopsy - after a person dies someone from the state often opens the corpse (dead body) and tries to determine the cause of death


At the University of Wisconsin I once took a philosophy course about crime and punishment.  In this class I learned that punishment serves, primarily, as a  deterrent.  A society punishes people purely to stop other people from doing what the original person did.

1)  Do you think we punish people primarily to deter other crimes?

2)  Does this woman deserve to be punished? Why or why not?

3)  If this woman is punished, who will be deterred?  Very few pregnant women try to kill themselves.  Is this woman going to be punished just to try to stop other pregnant women from committing suicide?  If so, do you think this is a "double-standard' since non-pregnant women are not arrested after attempting to commit suicide?

4)  Do you think she was really responsible for this event?  I think that pregnant women are often very emotional and when her boyfriend left her, that pushed her off the edge, psychologically.  I do not believe she made a "rational" or logical decision.  Do you agree or disagree?


Yes, I'm the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway.

If this page is useful to you, please buy the book (it's quite inexpensive and useful!!!!). If you don't have an e-reader, drop me a line at and I'll send you a free copy via Word file. Let me know whether you have Word 2010 or an earlier version.
Yes, I'm also the guy who created the scandal in Asia two years ago :P

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