Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to the latest IRL episode of The Handmaid's Tale. On the night of Wednesday, June 26, reports surfaced that a Jefferson County grand jury in Alabama indicted a pregnant woman on a manslaughter charge for an extremely troubling reason. In case you aren't up to date with the Marshae Jones case in Alabama, it's a disturbing omen on how pregnant people are treated by society in the event of a bad outcome.
On Wednesday, June 26, Alabama Real-Time News reported that 27-year old Marshae Jones of Birmingham, Alabama, was charged with manslaughter after being shot in the stomach, which resulted in her losing her unborn child. The shooting happened in December of 2018 during an altercation with another woman, who allegedly shot Jones. Charges against the shooter have been dismissed, according to Alabama Real-Time News. Jones, who was five months pregnant, was immediately rushed to the hospital after she was shot, but the fetus did not survive. However, Jones herself was arrested on Wednesday. It is unclear if Jones has legal representation at the moment.
Prosecutors claimed that because Jones had initiated the altercation that led to her being shot, she was allegedly at fault for the loss of the fetus. Pleasant Grove police Lt. Danny Reid told Alabama Real-Time News at the time of the shooting that the fetus was "the only true victim" in the incident. “It was the mother of the child who initiated and continued the fight which resulted in the death of her own unborn baby," he said. Jefferson County prosecutors did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for comment.
Once news broke about Jones' case, Alabama organization Yellowhammer Fund, which is a member of the National Network of Abortion Funds, took to Twitter to state it plans to find legal representation for Jones. Elite Daily reached out to the Yellowhammer Fund regarding whether Jones has secured legal representation who could be reached for comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.
On social media, many were horrified at seeing a woman jailed for the loss of her own child.
In a statement shared with Elite Daily on Thursday, June 27, the Yellowhammer Fund's Executive Director, Amanda Reyes, condemned Jones' arrest. A part of the statement read,
Indicting black women for losing their pregnancies after being the target of violence is a reproductive injustice. 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.
Jones' case is part of a troubling trend of women being treated as criminals for the loss of a pregnancy. As documented by The New York Times in late December 2018, prosecutors have frequently used existing law to charge women when their pregnancies have tragic outcomes — such as the case of Bei Bei Shuai, who was charged with murder when her unborn daughter died following Shuai's suicide attempt; or Katherine Dellis, who was convicted of concealing a dead body after disposing of a stillborn fetus. Dellis was later pardoned, while Shuai pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was released on time served.
Examples like Jones' are why, following the passage of restrictive abortion laws in states like Georgia, many were concerned that provisions of the laws would lead to women being charged for miscarriages. While many dismissed the concerns as fear-mongering at the time, it's not outside the realm of possibility. According to reproductive health organization Planned Parenthood, 10% to 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriages, and on many occasions, they're inevitable.
Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director of UltraViolet, a leading national women’s group, issued a statement in response to Jones' manslaughter charge. Thomas' statement read,
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. ... 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.
Jones' case is just one example of the injustice facing pregnant people, particularly black women, today. The fight for reproductive justice has never been more important.