Alabama Now Prosecuting Pregnant Women For Getting Shot By Other People
Back in May, when Alabama first passed a law banning all abortion with no exceptions whatsoever, on the grounds that an embryo is a human being with all the rights thereof, some people began speculating that the law could be used to prosecute miscarriages. This idea was swiftly dismissed as an overreaction by those who "know better" and were happy to assure us all that no such thing would ever actually happen here, in America. After all, we are not actually living in The Handmaid's Tale, and any silly feminist who tells you otherwise is just exaggerating and trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.
The shooting occurred last December, when Jones was five months pregnant, during an altercation with 23-year-old Ebony Jemison over something having to do with the father of Jones's child. Jemison was initially charged in the shooting, but a grand jury failed to indict her, and police say that it was Jones who initiated the argument in the first place.
Police at the time were predictably gross:
"The investigation showed that the only true victim in this was the unborn baby,'' Pleasant Grove police Lt. Danny Reid said at the time of the shooting. "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 the fight stemmed over the unborn baby's father. The investigation showed, he said, that it was Jones who initiated and pressed the fight, which ultimately caused Jemison to defend herself and unfortunately caused the death of the baby.
"Let's not lose sight that the unborn baby is the victim here,'' Reid said. "She had no choice in being brought unnecessarily into a fight where she was relying on her mother for protection."
Being shot five times in the stomach, Jones could have died. Had she died, I sincerely doubt that the coroner would consider her death a suicide. And yet somehow it's manslaughter against the fetus? How the hell does that work?
Unless Marshae Jones possessed psychic abilities of some kind, it is not precisely clear how she could have known that anyone was going to shoot her in the stomach five times. She didn't shoot Jemison, and is not being charged with any kind of assault on Jemison. One would have to imagine that if Jemison was so in fear for her own life that she "had" to shoot Jones in the stomach five times (which is a whole lot of times to shoot someone!), there would be grounds to charge Jones with assault and battery on her as well.
Curiously, this is not even the first time that Pleasant Grove police Lt. Danny Reid has gone all "blessed be the fruit" on a young pregnant woman. In 2016, he spoke to the press about a case involving Alexandra Laird, a young heroin addict charged with the chemical endangerment of her unborn child:
Police say the 22-year-old Pleasant Grove resident has tested positive for heroin both times she's been pregnant and now has been indicted twice for chemical endangerment of a child. The latest indictment was made public just within the last week.
"I'm not surprised at all. I mean I'm just not surprised," said Pleasant Grove police Lt. Danny Reid.
He doesn't know why Laird's bond was revoked, but he did charge her both times for chemical endangerment. Reid said Laird has been in jail so much she knows how to play the system.
"The last time she was here, as soon as she gets in she hurts herself. She 'trips', she falls, she hits her head up against the wall because she knows in a small place like Pleasant Grove we've got to send her to the hospital," he said. "As soon as she gets there she walks away."
Because of her history, Reid feels jail might be the best place for Laird while she awaits trial.
Except it wasn't. Because when Laird went to the hospital after the fall Reid claims was fake, the addiction treatment specialists there found out that she was not actually receiving any treatment for her addiction at the jail and refused to return her to police custody on those grounds. Good for them.
We're getting into some pretty dicey territory here. What's next? If a pregnant woman talks back to her husband and he is forced to push her down the stairs, is she going to get charged with manslaughter because she should have known better than to give him any lip? Are we going to discourage drug-addicted pregnant women from seeking treatment by prosecuting them if they do? Tell women not to go to the hospital if they suffer a miscarriage and start bleeding out all over the place? What if a woman eats sushi, or soft cheese, or drinks caffeine?
It's not that far-fetched. Women in Latin American countries where abortion is illegal have been imprisoned for decades for having miscarriages. Just a few months ago, a woman in El Salvador was freed after serving 30 years in prison for having had a miscarriage when she didn't even know she was pregnant in the first place. She had been charged with "aggravated homicide." Women have been jailed for miscarriages in Ecuador and Mexico as well.
These are the kind of things that happen when the life of a fetus is considered more valuable and important than the life of the person carrying said fetus. Alabama (and certainly Pleasant Grove police Lt. Danny Reid) have made it clear that this is the case for them. It's not going to end well, and it's going to specifically hurt women of color and all poor women most of all, because that's where they'll be testing the waters.
If you would like to help Marshae Jones with her case, the Yellow Fund, a group that raises money to fund abortions in Alabama, is raising money to assist with her bail and defense.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse