Should this woman get charged with manslaughter for allegedly starting a fight that lead to the death of her unborn child???
Marshae Jones, 28, is facing a manslaughter charge after her unborn baby died. Her crime? Allegedly provoking a fight with a person who ultimately shot her in the stomach, killing her baby.
Police initially charged Ebony Jemison, 23, with manslaughter but the charge was dismissed when a grand jury didn’t indict her.
Jones was five months pregnant when she got into a fight with another woman outside a Dollar General store in Pleasant Grove, just west of Birmingham, the station said.
Authorities say the dispute was about the child’s father.
“It was the mother of the child who initiated and continued the fight which resulted in the death of her own unborn baby,” Pleasant Grove police Lt. Danny Reid told AL.com shortly after the shooting.
He said “the fight caused the other woman, Ebony Jemison, to react and defend herself.” He would not describe Jones, the pregnant woman, as a shooting victim.
But that characterization sparked critics who say Alabama keeps prioritizing fetuses over women.
Lawyers for Jones filed a motion for the charges to be dropped on Monday, stating “there is no legal or factual basis to permit a criminal prosecution.” A hearing is scheduled for July 9. Check www.kwelikush.com for updates.
The unusual circumstances of the case highlights a growing effort by some states to prosecute women for alleged crimes against their own fetuses. Marshae Jones’ case, in particular, raises questions about the legal ramifications of the concept of “fetal personhood,” which holds that a fertilized egg, embryo or fetus is a separate person with a separate set of rights who deserves full legal protection under the U.S. Constitution.
Alabama is notorious for its deep hostility toward abortion rights. The state is at the epicenter of the fight to recognize the fetus as a legal person with active rights. Over the past few years, anti-abortion activists and lawmakers have laid the foundation for Jones’ extraordinary prosecution.
In 2018, voters passed a constitutional amendment declaring that it is “public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children.” Earlier this year, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed into law a ban on abortion, which she called a testament to her constituents’ deeply held belief that every life is precious.
Alabama is also one of 38 states with a fetal homicide law, which allows charges to be brought when a fetus is killed. Under state law, “an unborn child in utero at any stage of development, regardless of viability” counts as a “person” for prosecution purposes. But the statute stipulates that women should not be charged in the deaths of their own fetuses, making Jones’ case more difficult.
Nancy Rosenbloom, director of legal advocacy at the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said she suspects prosecutors will argue that the 2018 constitutional amendment somehow negates existing criminal law, which was warned about at the time of its passage.
“The concept of ‘fetal personhood’ comes out of the anti-abortion movement,” she said, “which has worked for years to change the definition of the word “person” in state law to include a fertilized egg, embryo or fetus.”
The idea is that if a fetus is considered a person, abortion at all stages of pregnancy can more easily be outlawed. But these lawmakers failed to consider all the potential causes of a fetus’ termination.
“Anti-abortion advocates have essentially put into place a broader set of laws that are being used to arrest and prosecute women,” Rosenbloom said. “That same thinking ― of making the fetus a separate person ― always restricts the right of the woman who is pregnant.”
“Alabama leads the country in criminal cases involving women accused of endangering their fetuses,” said Kimberly Mutcherson, co-dean of Rutgers Law School. Over 600 women have been charged since 2005 with alleged crimes related to their pregnancies; the vast majority of them prosecuted for exposing their embryo or fetus to controlled substances under the state’s “chemical endangerment of a child” statute.
“The criminal cases go beyond substance abuse during pregnancy,” Rosenbloom added, “pointing to cases where pregnant women have been charged for getting in a car accident, failing to leave a physically abusive partner, or attempting suicide.”
Randall Marshall, the executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, expressed concerns Jones’ case signals an expansion of the policing of pregnancy, raising significant constitutional concerns.
“This could easily subject any act or omission by a pregnant woman to state scrutiny,” he said. “Virtually everything a pregnant woman does or does not do has an impact on the fetus. What if you don’t get regular prenatal care, or you keep too many hours, or drive an unreliable car, or fail to keep your diabetes under control?”
“If prosecutors hold Jones, a victim of gun violence, criminally liable for someone else’s action that ended her pregnancy, it will send a frightening message to all Alabama women,” said Kimberly Mutcherson.
“This is a new boundary that has been crossed,” she said. “Women who lose a pregnancy, who are already dealing with that pain, will also have to think about whether there’s anything they did that the state could decide was criminal.”
“What’s revealing about this is that it sort of peels back that layer of pretext ― which is that this is not about hurting women ― and shows that that is really at the core of a lot of what is going on here,” she said.
“What Jones needs right now is compassion, not prison time,” said Elissa Serapio, a physician who provides obstetrics-gynecology care in Alabama.
“Losing a desired pregnancy can be incredibly traumatic,” she said. “Ms. Jones deserves medical care for her bullet wounds and the kindness and compassion that all people deserve when facing loss. She should not have to worry about being imprisoned for losing a pregnancy.”
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