In a case that has outraged and alarmed reproductive rights advocates nationwide, Marshae Jones—a 27-year-old black woman from Alabama—was charged with manslaughter Wednesday for experiencing a miscarriage last December after she was shot in the stomach.
"This is the toxic collision of the everyday racism, sexism, and violence experienced by black women and the terrifying end point of the dangerous anti-choice laws spreading across the country, including in Alabama, that devalue, dehumanize, and criminalize women," Shaunna Thomas of the national women's group UltraViolet said in a statement. "This is part of a larger pattern of how our criminal justice system permits and furthers violence and abuse against black women, and it is unacceptable."
Amid mounting calls for authorities to drop the manslaughter charge against Jones—who was five months pregnant when she was shot outside a Dollar General store—pro-choice activists warned that the case threatens reproductive rights nationwide by advancing the anti-choice movement's fight for legal recognition of "fetal personhood."
This is what the anti-choice movement’s “personhood” agenda looks like.
Alabamian Marshae Jones miscarried after being shot. She's now been indicted for the manslaughter of her fetus for allegedly starting the argument that led to her being shot.https://t.co/hPYojujYg3
— NARAL (@NARAL) June 27, 2019
Here's a series that gives a good background on the impact of anti-abortion "personhood" laws: https://t.co/45b2VawkpR And here's a little (minus 2015-2019) history of attempted laws that make things like jailing people for miscarriages possible: https://t.co/2iWyFvLx37
— NAF (@NatAbortionFed) June 27, 2019
Jones is being held on $50,000 bond after being indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury and taken into custody Wednesday, AL.com reported. Although the alleged shooter, 23-year-old Ebony Jemison, was initially charged with manslaughter, that charge was later dismissed by a grand jury after police claimed that Jones started the dispute and Jemison acted in self-defense.
According to AL.com:
"The investigation showed that the only true victim in this was the unborn baby," Pleasant Grove police Lt. Danny Reid said at the time of the shooting. "It was the mother of the child who initiated and continued the fight which resulted in the death of her own unborn baby."
Reid said the fight stemmed over the unborn baby's father. The investigation showed, he said, that it was Jones who initiated and pressed the fight, which ultimately caused Jemison to defend herself and unfortunately caused the death of the baby.
"Let's not lose sight that the unborn baby is the victim here," Reid said. "She had no choice in being brought unnecessarily into a fight where she was relying on her mother for protection."
The 5-month fetus was "dependent on its mother to try to keep it from harm, and she shouldn't seek out unnecessary physical altercations," Reid added.
Summarizing AL.com's report, NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue tweeted Thursday, "This what 2019 looks like for a pregnant woman of color without means in a red state."
Today, Marshae Jones was indicted for homicide when someone shot her in the stomach while she was pregnant, ending her pregnancy. They said she "started it." The shooter went free. This what 2019 looks like for a pregnant woman of color without means in a red state. This is now.
— ilyse hogue (@ilyseh) June 27, 2019
Amanda Reyes, executive director of the Yellowhammer Fund, told AL.com, "The state of Alabama has proven yet again that the moment a person becomes pregnant their sole responsibility is to produce a live, healthy baby and that it considers any action a pregnant person takes that might impede in that live birth to be a criminal act."
The Yellowhammer Fund is an Alabama-based member of the National Network of Abortion Funds that has garnered national support for opposing the "worst-of-its-kind" abortion ban passed by the state's Republican lawmakers earlier this year with the intention of provoking a legal battle that pushes the U.S. Supreme Court to consider overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that affirmed the constitutional right to abortion.
Citing Alabama's pending ban on abortion and other examples, VICE reported Thursday on the various ways state policymakers and authorities already have embraced and advanced the concept of fetal personhood.
Alabama was also the first state to enshrine fetal personhood in its constitution, and an Alabama judge allowed an aborted fetus to sue the clinic that performed the procedure in March.
Similarly, county sheriffs across Alabama regularly arrest women for "chemical endangerment of a child," or using drugs while pregnant.
"Today, Marshae Jones is being charged with manslaughter for being pregnant and getting shot while engaging in an altercation with a person who had a gun. Tomorrow, it will be another black woman, maybe for having a drink while pregnant. And after that, another, for not obtaining adequate prenatal care," said Yellowhammer's Reyes. "We commit ourselves to making sure that Marshae is released from jail on bond, assisting with her legal representation, and working to ensure that she gets justice for the multiple attacks that she has endured."