Pregnancy Justice applauds Dougherty County Prosecutor Gregory W. Edwards' conclusion that there is no legal authority for charging a pregnant woman with the crime of murder for having terminated her own pregnancy. As the prosecutor explained in this detailed legal analysis released today, no Georgia law permits prosecution of women for murder or related criminal charges based on pregnancy or the outcome of their pregnancies.
Kenlissia Jones, however, should never have been arrested in the first place. As a result of the state's actions, Ms. Jones had to endure the trauma of arrest, imprisonment, and the profound violation of her rights to physical liberty as well as medical and personal privacy. A person's health decisions during pregnancy -- including the decision to end a pregnancy -- should never be the subject of criminal investigation, arrest, prosecution, or public disclosure of medical information without consent. It is especially troubling to see a young black mother of a toddler charged with a crime that carries the death penalty.
According to Georgia prosecutors, Ms. Jones was arrested and held without bond, facing a possible charge of "malice murder," based on the claim that she used misoprostol to terminate her pregnancy. Now that she has been released and the murder charge has been dropped, prosecutors indicate that she still faces a misdemeanor charge of "possession of a dangerous drug" for having allegedly possessed misoprostol. This charge should be dropped as well.
According to the World Health Organization and medical research, misoprostol is not a "dangerous" drug. It is used safely around the world for a wide variety of obstetric and gynecological health care needs, including treatment of postpartum hemorrhage and safe termination of pregnancy. Moreover, public health principles and human rights demand that all women be able to speak confidentially to health care providers about the use of any drug during pregnancy, without fear of arrest and prosecution.
The prosecutor also stated that his office was investigating other possible charges to file against Ms. Jones. But major medical and public health organizations in the U.S., such as the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, oppose threatening women with arrest in relationship to their pregnancies because it deters women from seeking help and, as a result, undermines maternal, fetal, and child health.
Because public health, fairness to pregnant women, and fundamental principles of human rights and dignity prohibit the use of state power to arrest and punish women for being pregnant and for the outcomes of their pregnancies, Pregnancy Justice calls on Mr. Edwards to drop all charges against Ms. Jones.
Pregnancy Justice is a non-profit legal advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the health, rights, and dignity of all pregnant and parenting women. Since its founding in 2001, Pregnancy Justice has participated in cases across the country in which pregnant women have been criminally charged based on their pregnancies or outcome of their pregnancies. Pregnancy Justice's 2013 study, published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law, documented 413 such cases from 1973 to 2005, and demonstrates that laws that create a separate legal status for fetuses are used to punish pregnant women.