Jefferson County Jail

RaceSex & Gender

black woman shot, charged with murdering own fetus

June 27, 2019
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Less than two months after Alabama legislators passed their Human Life Protection Act, state officials are now charging women for the deaths of unborn fetuses. Not just instances of abortion, but in the event of accidental death, as is the case of Marshae Jones who was shot in the stomach while pregnant. According to Pleasent Grove, AL police, an argument broke out on December 5 between Jones and Ebony Jemison outside of a Dollar General store, which they say was over the father of Jones’ unborn fetus. At some point, Jemison shoot Jones in the stomach. A shot she survived, but which killed the fetus.

Initially, Jemison was charged with manslaughter, but a grand jury failed to indict, her leading to the dismissal of charges, with police alleging that Jones started the fight and that Jemison shot her in self-defense. “The investigation showed that the only true victim in this was the unborn baby,” said Lt. Danny Reid said in December. “It was the mother of the child who initiated and continued the fight which resulted in the death of her own unborn baby.”

Alabama is one of the 38 states that classify fetuses as victims in the case of a homicide or assault. When a man kills his wife and unborn baby, for example, he is held responsible for both killings. The termination of the pregnancy in these cases is criminalized where abortion is not, because it strips the mother of her bodily autonomy. That fetus was intended by the mother to be born, and separating her choice puts the said termination in a criminal context.

It’s unclear how much of the country’s most restrictive abortion ban is directly tied to Jones’ case or, as a criminal defense attorney, Richard Jaffe suggests, whether prosecutors might count the miscarriage as an unlawful intervention.

“This takes us to a new level of inhumanity and illegality towards pregnant women,” Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, told ABC News. “I can’t think of any other circumstance where a person who themselves is a victim of a crime is treated as the criminal.”

This past Wednesday, a grand jury indicted Jones on a manslaughter charge in Jefferson County, where she is being held on a $50,000 bond. According to The Washington Post, it is unclear if Jones has an attorney.