An Alabama woman whose fetus died after she was shot in a fight has been charged with manslaughter, while the woman accused of shooting her has been freed.
AL.Com, a local news website in the US state, reported that 27-year-old Marshae Jones was charged with manslaughter on Wednesday.
She was five months pregnant when 23-year-old Ebony Jemison shot her in the stomach.
Jemison was initially charged with manslaughter, but a Jefferson County grand jury indicted Jones instead after authorities determined she started the fight, and Jemison fired in self-defence. The details surrounding the altercation remain unclear.
Pleasant Grove Police Lieutenant Danny Reid said the fetus was “dependent on its mother to try to keep it from harm”. He added that “the investigation showed that the only true victim in this was the unborn baby.”
Women’s rights activists expressed outrage over the charge, saying the case shows Alabama is determined to make pregnant women criminally responsible if they fail to deliver live, healthy babies.
“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, the executive director of the Yellowhammer Fund, an organisation providing funds for women in Alabama seeking abortion.
“Today, Marshae Jones is being charged with manslaughter for being pregnant and getting shot while engaging in an altercation with a person who had a gun. Tomorrow, it will be another black woman, maybe for having a drink while pregnant. And after that, another, for not obtaining adequate prenatal care,” Reyes said in a statement to AL.com.
Alabama recently passed the strictest abortion law in the country, blocking the procedure in nearly all circumstances including rape and incest. Rights groups, who say the law is an attack on women and reproductive health, have filed a lawsuit seeking to block the law before it goes into effect.
“This didn’t happen in a bubble and it isn’t just happening in Alabama,” the National Abortion Fund tweeted, referring to Jones’s charges. “This is what happens when anti-abortion politicians & groups successfully pass ‘personhood’ laws or exploit incidents of extraordinary violence to give fetuses & embryos special protection.”
Alabama is not alone. The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research and policy organisation, reported at the end of May that 27 abortion bans have been enacted across 12 states so far in 2019.
Additionally, the organisation reported that between January 1 and May 31, 479 abortion restrictions were enacted in 33 states, accounting for more than a third of the 1,271 abortion restrictions enacted since the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling, which legalised abortion.
According to AL.com, Jones is being held on a $50,000 bond.