On Wednesday, a grand jury in Alabama indicted a 27-year-old woman on manslaughter in a shooting that ended her pregnancy. But the woman was not the shooter — and the person who did pull the trigger isn't facing charges in the case. Why Marshae Jones was charged in this case seem to center on the notion that some Alabama officials believe it's a pregnant person's responsibility to protect a fetus, regardless of circumstances.
As Al.com reported, the shooting that caused the termination of Jones' pregnancy occurred on Dec. 4, 2018, when she was five months pregnant. Jones and another woman, Ebony Jemison, had reportedly gotten into an argument. Al.com reported that investigators said they believe Jones initiated the fight and that Jemison responded by shooting Jones in the stomach. The shooting caused Jones to have a miscarriage.
Jemison was initially charged with manslaughter in the case, but the charges were dismissed when a grand jury decided not to indict her, The Washington Post reported. A grand jury did decide to indict Jones, though — and she was taken into custody on Wednesday. According to Al.com, officials had wanted to charge Jones with murder at first, but ultimately decided to pursue a manslaughter charge. Essence indicated that she's being held on a $50,000 bond at the Jefferson County jail.
In describing the shooting after it happened, Pleasant Grove Police Lieutenant Danny Reid emphasized that he believes Jones should have acted differently in the situation because she was pregnant.
“The investigation showed that the only true victim in this was the unborn baby ... It was the mother of the child who initiated and continued the fight which resulted in the death of her own unborn baby,” Reid said, per Al.com.
The fetus was "dependent on its mother to try to keep it from harm, and she shouldn’t seek out unnecessary physical altercations," he said.
Many have expressed outrage at the manslaughter charge against Jones, especially reproductive choice advocates, Essence noted. Advocates warn that this charge could set the stage for a future in which pregnant individuals are increasingly criminalized for any actions taken during their pregnancy.
“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 executive director of the Yellowhammer Fund, Amanda Reyes, said in a statement, per Essence. “Today, Marshae Jones is being charged with manslaughter for being pregnant and getting shot ... Tomorrow, it will be another Black woman, maybe for having a drink while pregnant. And after that, another, for not obtaining adequate prenatal care.”
Essence added that the Yellowhammer Fund, which provides funding for individuals in Alabama who are seeking abortion services, said in its statement that it plans to help Jones fight the charge. The Fund indicated that it will assist her with legal representation and ensure that she's released from jail.