Alabama is in the news again for its increasingly misogynistic views and policies regarding females, particularly those of color. In May of this year, Alabama’s female, Republican governor, Kay Ivey, signed an unconstitutional bill into law that outright bans most abortions at all stages of pregnancy.
Meanwhile, the Internet is abuzz today due to the case of 28 year old Marshae Jones, who was five months pregnant with a girl last December when she was shot in the stomach during a fight with another woman. The fetus did not survive the shooting, which would have been sad enough. What really has people alarmed, though, is that Ms. Jones has now been charged with manslaughter and was just released from jail on a $50,000 bond.
How can this be, you ask? Well, police say that Ms. Jones started the fight that got her shot in the stomach. She did not take steps to keep herself out of harm’s way. Because she was pregnant, they conclude that she should have done all she could to protect her unborn fetus. Since she allegedly started the fight that ended with her being shot and her unborn child’s death, police reason that she should be charged with manslaughter.
But I say hold on there, coppers… what about the woman who did the shooting? Ebony Jemison, who was fighting with Ms. Jones in the parking lot of a Dollar General store over the paternity of the unborn child, was initially charged with manslaughter in the death of the fetus. That charge was dismissed after the grand jury failed to indict her. So evidently, Ebony Jemison is now free, even though she shot someone. However, based on reports, she did shoot in self-defense, as she was evidently trying to get away from Jones when she fired her weapon.
Now… having read about this case, I’m pretty dumbfounded. Do I think Marshae Jones was right to get into a violent altercation with another woman over the father of her unborn baby? No, not particularly. Pregnant or not, I think it’s stupid to get into violent fights with other people, particularly if they’re packing heat. However, losing a pregnancy should not be a crime. I’m sure Ms. Jones had no idea she would be shot and her unborn child would be killed. This situation, like others involving pregnant women that have resulted in incarceration, seems to put pregnant women at a different legal status than other people. That’s not fair, and it could set a horrible precedent for other women who might lose a pregnancy that others might deem was due to their negligence.
Complicating matters is the fact that Ms. Jones is a black woman, and I think we know what kind of record Alabama has towards promoting the rights of people of color. This situation is appalling on many levels and reeks a bit of The Handmaid’s Tale to me. Before you know it, pregnant women in Alabama will wind up practically incarcerated by their own accord, trying to avoid being arrested for losing a pregnancy.
The officer who was quoted about this case, Lieutenant Danny Reed of the Pleasant Grove Police Department, had this to say: “When a five-month pregnant woman initiates a fight and attacks another person, I believe some responsibility lies with her as to any injury to her unborn child. That child is dependent on its mother to try to keep it from harm, and she shouldn’t seek out unnecessary physical altercations.” There’s something about that statement that totally skeeves me out. He sounds like a legalistic cretin who hates women and wants to control them.
I’m glad to see people are outraged about this and saying “Hell no.” This is a slippery slope we really don’t need to be on. I’m also glad to read that prosecutors may choose not to prosecute Marshae Jones for the death of her unborn daughter. It’s not that I don’t think what Jones did was stupid and the loss of her baby was avoidable. It’s just that this could really cause problems for a lot of other pregnant women. Pregnant and breastfeeding women in the United States are already under a microscope, with people calling the cops on them if they think they’re doing anything to harm their unborn fetuses. I’m reminded of Tasha Adams, the woman in Toad Suck, Arkansas, who was arrested when a waitress called the cops on her for drinking while breastfeeding.
Pregnant women should NEVER be prosecuted for losing a pregnancy, regardless of whether or not it was her fault. That’s is a dangerously slippery slope and it will cause a lot of problems. Where do you stop? Should we prosecute women for smoking, drinking, walking after dark alone, or not wearing a seatbelt while pregnant? Should we prosecute them for getting into car accidents, falling down stairs while wearing high heels, or eating food that makes them sick? You see where I’m going with this? And again, I really doubt Ms. Jones knew Ms. Jemison was going to shoot her.
Incidentally, this case predates Alabama’s new law against abortion, so it has no official bearing on this case. However, the fact that people in Alabama want to force women to be pregnant when they may not want to be is a good indicator of how women are treated there. Makes me glad I don’t live there myself… although they obviously could use some more blue voters.