UPDATE: A district attorney in Alabama announced in early July she is dropping the charges against Marshae Jones, who had been charged with manslaughter after a fight she allegedly started ended with another woman, Ebony Jemison, shooting her.
The gunshot resulted in Jones, who was five months pregnant, losing her baby.
“After reviewing the facts of this case and the applicable state law, I have determined that it is not in the best interest of justice to pursue prosecution of Ms. Jones,” said Jefferson County Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney Lynneice O. Washington. There are no winners, only losers, in this sad ordeal.”
Marshae Jones was standing outside a Dollar General in Birmingham, Alabama, last December when she got into a fight with another woman, Ebony Jemison, who shot her in the stomach. Jones was five months pregnant at the time.
The 27-year-old woman was indicted by a grand jury Wednesday for the death of her unborn child, according to AL.com. She was charged with manslaughter, even though it was Jemison, 23, who fired the gun.
Jemison was initially charged with manslaughter, too, but the grand jury failed to indict her and the charges were dismissed. Police said Jemison was acting in self defense when she shot Jones.
Pleasant Grove Police Lt. Danny Reid said in December the department brought charges against Jones as well because “the only true victim in this was the unborn baby.” He argued it was Jones “who initiated and continued the fight, which resulted in the death of her own unborn baby.”
“Let’s not lose sight that the unborn baby is the victim here,” Reid said again this week. “She had no choice in being brought unnecessarily into a fight where she was relying on her mother for protection.”
The situation — and the ensuing charges — have quickly become a flashpoint in the debate over access to abortion, particularly given Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) recently signed into law what has been regarded as the strictest pro-life bill in the country.
The legislation makes it a felony for a doctor to perform or attempt to perform an abortion at any stage of pregnancy.
In a tweet about Jones posted Wednesday, NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue wrote, “This [is] what 2019 looks like for a pregnant woman of color without means in a red state.”
Amanda Reyes, executive director of the Yellowhammer Fund, an advocacy organization for women seeking abortion in Alabama, said Jones’ indictment proves that, in Alabama, “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.”
Some, like conservative commentator Allie Stuckey, defended the charges against Jones, agreeing with Reid’s assessment that the unborn baby was the victim of the tragic incident.
It should be noted, though, that a majority of mainstream pro-life organizations have stated their opposition to prosecuting women who seek out abortions or experience miscarriages for any number of reasons.
In 2016, when then-candidate Donald Trump said during an MNSBC town hall event that he believes women who have abortions should face “some form of punishment,” March for Life President Jeanne Mancini described his comments as “completely out of touch with the pro-life movement.”
“Being pro-life means wanting what is best for the mother and the baby. Women who choose abortion often do so in desperation and then deeply regret such a decision,” she explained at the time. “No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion.”
“This is against the very nature of what we are about,” Mancini continued. “We invite a woman who has gone down this route to consider paths to healing, not punishment.”