Woman could be prosecuted for initiating fight and having unborn child shot.
Marshae Jones, 28, was five months pregnant when 23-year-old Ebony Jemison shot her in the stomach during an argument over the fetus’s father, according to Alabama authorities, and now a district attorney’s office can’t decide whether to prosecute a woman indicted for manslaughter after she lost her fetus. Jemison was initially charged with manslaughter, but a Jefferson County grand jury declined to indict once it had been discovered that Jones, not Jemison had initiated the fight leading to the fetus’ death. The other woman had fired the shot in self-defense and had inadvertently harmed the unborn child.
The indictment stated Jones did “intentionally cause the death” of “Unborn Baby Jones by initiating a fight knowing she was five months pregnant.” However, the office of District Attorney (D.A.) Lynneice O. Washington said, “There has been no decision on whether to pursue the case against Jones” and adding her office has “not yet made a determination about whether to prosecute it as a manslaughter case, reduce it to a lesser charge or not to prosecute it.” She promised a decision “only after all due diligence has been performed” and “an outcome that is most just for all the parties involved.” This is an uncommon situation in which the law would allow for the mother to be prosecuted, but it was not a purposeful, malicious attempt to harm the fetus.
The D.A.’s assistant Valerie Hicks Powe issued a statement offering “sympathy for all the families involved, including Mrs. Jones, who lost her unborn child…Foremost, it should be stated that this is a truly tragic case, resulting in the death of an unborn child. The fact that this tragedy was 100 percent avoidable makes this case even more disheartening.”
Pleasant Grove police Lt. Danny Reid had called the fetus “the only true victim…dependent on its mother to try to keep it from harm.” Yet, women’s rights groups and advocates expressed their outrage over Jones’ arrest, as did the Yellowhammer Fund, which raises money to help provide women with access to undergo abortions. They believe that the mother’s loss should not be minimized. She doesn’t deserve to be prosecuted.
Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said, “Women across the country have been prosecuted for manslaughter or murder for having an abortion or experiencing a miscarriage,” adding that hundreds of Alabama’s residents have been prosecuted for the state’s “chemical endangerment of a child” statute by exposing their embryo or fetus to controlled substances.
“This takes us to a new level of inhumanity and illegality towards pregnant women,” Paltrow said. “I can’t think of any other circumstance where a person who themselves is a victim of a crime is treated as the criminal.”
“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,” said Amanda Reyes, Yellowhammer Fund’s director.