In a case that has outraged and alarmed reproductive rights advocates nationwide, Marshae Jones—a 27-year-old black woman from Alabama—was charged with manslaughter Wednesday for experiencing a miscarriage last December after she was shot in the stomach.
“This is the toxic collision of the everyday racism, sexism, and violence experienced by black women and the terrifying end point of the dangerous anti-choice laws spreading across the country, including in Alabama, that devalue, dehumanize, and criminalize women,” Shaunna Thomas of the national women’s group UltraViolet said in a statement. “This is part of a larger pattern of how our criminal justice system permits and furthers violence and abuse against black women, and it is unacceptable.”
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Amid mounting calls for authorities to drop the manslaughter charge against Jones—who was five months pregnant when she was shot outside a Dollar General store—pro-choice activists warned that the case threatens reproductive rights nationwide by advancing the anti-choice movement’s fight for legal recognition of “fetal personhood.”
Jones is being held on $50,000 bond after being indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury and taken into custody Wednesday, AL.com reported. Although the alleged shooter, 23-year-old Ebony Jemison, was initially charged with manslaughter, that charge was later dismissed by a grand jury after police claimed that Jones started the dispute and Jemison acted in self-defense.
According to AL.com:
Summarizing AL.com‘s report, NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue tweeted Thursday, “This what 2019 looks like for a pregnant woman of color without means in a red state.”
Amanda Reyes, executive director of the Yellowhammer Fund, told AL.com, “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.”
The Yellowhammer Fund is an Alabama-based member of the National Network of Abortion Funds that has garnered national support for opposing the “worst-of-its-kind” abortion ban passed by the state’s Republican lawmakers earlier this year with the intention of provoking a legal battle that pushes the U.S. Supreme Court to consider overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that affirmed the constitutional right to abortion.
Citing Alabama’s pending ban on abortion and other examples, VICE reported Thursday on the various ways state policymakers and authorities already have embraced and advanced the concept of fetal personhood.
“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,” said Yellowhammer’s Reyes. “We commit ourselves to making sure that Marshae is released from jail on bond, assisting with her legal representation, and working to ensure that she gets justice for the multiple attacks that she has endured.”