Marshae Jones was five months pregnant when she got into an argument on a December afternoon last year outside a Dollar Store in Birmingham, Alabama. The argument escalated and the 27-year-old was shot in the stomach. Jones was rushed to the hospital and eventually recovered, but the shooting ended her pregnancy. Police initially charged the shooter, 23-year-old Ebony Jemison, with manslaughter for firing on Jones in what police say was a dispute over the man who was the father-to-be, but the charges were dismissed after the grand jury declined to indict Jemison because she was acting in self-defense. On Wednesday, however, an Alabama grand jury instead charged Jones with manslaughter for the miscarriage. Why? “The investigation showed that the only true victim in this was the unborn baby,’’ local 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.” Marshae Jones is now in jail.
The case has drawn criticism from abortion rights groups and highlighted the extremist laws on the books in Alabama criminalizing acts that extend far beyond abortion to undermine access to the medical procedure. “Today, Marshae Jones was indicted for homicide when someone shot her in the stomach while she was pregnant, ending her pregnancy,” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL, said on Twitter Wednesday. “They said she ‘started it.’ The shooter went free. This [is] what 2019 looks like for a pregnant woman of color without means in a red state. This is now.” In Alabama, folks were less convinced. “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 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,’’ Amanda Reyes, head of the nationwide abortion rights advocacy group Yellowhammer Fund, said in a statement to AL.com. “Tomorrow, it will be another black woman, maybe for having a drink while pregnant. And after that, another, for not obtaining adequate prenatal care.”