Update: On July 3, District Attorney Lynneice Washington did the right thing by announcing her office would not pursue any criminal charges against Ms. Jones.
On June 27, prosecutors in Alabama unsealed an indictment for manslaughter against Marshae Jones based on the claim that being pregnant and being the victim of what would ordinarily be viewed as a crime, is itself a crime. As a result of being shot in the stomach by another person, Ms. Jones also lost her pregnancy. This cruel and unsupportable interpretation of Alabama law is consistent with anti-abortion and "fetal personhood" ideology that empowers state actors to control and incarcerate more Black, brown, and poor white people. Pregnancy Justice calls on the District Attorney of Jefferson County (Bessemer Division), Lynneice Washington, to dismiss the charges against Marshae Jones and not pursue any criminal charges against her or any other person because of pregnancy or any pregnancy outcome.
As Pregnancy Justice cases and research confirm, Ms. Jones is not the first woman in the United States to have been prosecuted for manslaughter or murder for experiencing a pregnancy loss. Such arrests have been made even in states where the manslaughter and murder laws specifically provide that the pregnant woman herself may not be subject to arrest for a pregnancy loss.
Ms. Jones is also far from the first woman in Alabama to be targeted for arrest because of pregnancy. Alabama currently leads the nation in arrests of pregnant women and Ms. Jones joins hundreds of other women in that state whose pregnancies have provided the basis for arrest, for things that would not be considered crimes if the person were not pregnant. These law enforcement actions are the result of:
-- Alabama's anti-abortion laws, including its newest one defining child and person to be "a human being specifically including an unborn child in utero at any stage of development";
-- Alabama's homicide law, which provides that a pregnant woman herself may not be arrested for losing a pregnancy, nevertheless defines the victim of a criminal homicide or assault to mean "a human being, including an unborn child in utero at any stage of development";
-- The state constitution's new Amendment 2 that makes it state policy - under all of Alabama's laws - to "recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children";
-- State Supreme Court decisions declaring that the law - making it a crime to expose a child to an environment in which controlled substances are distributed - may be used to prosecute women who are pregnant and use any amount of any controlled substance, including medication prescribed to them.
Ms. Jones's case is, however, the first time that protection of "unborn life" has provided the basis for an arrest of a woman because she was pregnant and was herself a victim of what would ordinarily be considered a criminal act. Anti-abortion advocates have put into place laws that are being used to arrest, convict, and lock up women because they experience miscarriages and stillbirths, or are in any situation in which their own lives and health are in danger.
This idea has no limits. Pregnant women who go to work despite a doctor's advice for bed rest or who work in dangerous or physically taxing jobs could be arrested if they experience a pregnancy loss or for such crimes as endangering the welfare of a child.
Alabama fails to protect pregnant women's health and lives - Alabama has refused to expand Medicaid, is working hard to ban safe abortion, and has has left too many women without access to care when they are continuing a pregnancy to term. In 2017, Alabama had the second-worst maternal death rate in the nation, and the state has failed to address Alabama's appalling rates of Black infant mortality. Instead, the state has now made it a crime for a woman to be unable to protect herself.
Ms. Jones's arrest for manslaughter because she experienced a pregnancy loss and was involved in an argument in which someone shot her won't protect any life, won't create healthy communities, won't advance maternal or child health, and won't achieve any justice. It will not help her heal from the gunshot wound that ripped through her abdomen or from the loss of a baby she very much wanted. It will, however, affirm the message that state police power may be used to control and lock up pregnant women.
Call, write, or tweet to the District Attorney of Jefferson County (Bessemer Division), Lynneice Washington, and tell her to dismiss the charges against Marshae Jones and not pursue any criminal charges against her or any other person because of pregnancy or any pregnancy outcome.
You can reach DA Lynneice Washington at:
1851 2nd Ave N Ste 110
Bessemer, AL 35020
Click Link for Email
You can also help by making a donation to the Alabama based Yellowhammer Fund with a notation that the support is for Ms. Jones and other women who face arrest because of pregnancy.
We also need you to continue your support for Pregnancy Justice's work providing defense to women jailed for being pregnant, for having an abortion, or for experiencing a pregnancy loss.
For more information, please contact Shawn Steiner, Media & Communications Director, Pregnancy Justice: SCS@AdvocatesforPregnantWomen.org 917.497.3037