In December 2018, a shooting victim was charged with manslaughter.
Marshae Jones became involved in an altercation with another woman, and the woman shot her in the abdomen. Jones was five months pregnant and suffered a miscarriage. The shooter, Ebony Jemison, was initially arrested and charged with manslaughter. However, a grand jury decided not to indict her after police reports asserted that Jones started the fight and Jemison acted in self-defense.
The jury then indicted Jones and charged for the death of her own fetus. However, more recently, the prosecutor decided not to proceed with legal actions against her.
Shooting Victim Charged with Manslaughter — The Backstory
In the spring of 2019, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed the “heartbeat bill” prohibiting access to almost all abortions. This sparked national debates about women’s rights and bodily autonomy worldwide. It also became the catalyst that sprang other republican states into action. Most notable was Alabama, where Jones is a resident. Considered the strictest anti-abortion law in modern American history, Alabama’s abortion ban made no exceptions for incest or rape.
Many critics of the bill speculated about how officials might apply the law in practice. Women’s rights advocates cautioned women that the bill could use even truly accidental miscarriages as the basis for criminal charges. Politicians who supported the move said liberal Americans were panicking unnecessarily, and they simply did not understand the bill’s true contents.
One USA Today article explicitly stated that the abortion bill would not criminalize innocent women who had a natural miscarriage. It said that the law squarely focused on the actions of women who intentionally sought abortions.
Many people believe that the story of Marshae Jones proves otherwise.
Since then, lawyers, politicians and law enforcement officers have stepped forward to share their own opinions on the matter. According to a Medium report, a Pleasant Grove Lieutenant believed that if a woman initiated a fight that led to the death of her unborn child, her actions hold her at least partially accountable.
While he asserted that a mother is responsible for protecting her child from unnecessary harm, he admitted that it was hard to draw a line between what was necessary or unnecessary. Without that clear line, he wondered what other dangers women could get arrested for.
“Charging [this] woman is a reach and [an] example of officials going beyond legislative intent to create crimes for their own personal and political agendas,” Sam C. Adamo, Jr., a managing owner of Damo & Adamo Criminal Defense Law Firm, tells Parentology.
Like many other people who sided with Jones and rallied for her release, he believes Alabama prosecutors tried to use her to set an example. Adamo sums it up like this: “How can we send a message? I know, let’s start creating crime and arresting folks. That’ll show ’em how serious we are. After all, all we need is probable cause. Let the lawyers sort it out after.”
The Bottom Line
Pro-life advocates believe that fetuses have the right to live and that the law should hold mothers responsible for failing to ensure this. However, without a clear line of what counts as necessary risk or a true accident, more mothers may find themselves in the position of Marshae Jones. And, the next time around, a prosecutor may decide to see it through.
Shooting Victim Charged with Manslaughter — Sources
Business Insider – Judge OKs state’s motion to dismiss fetal manslaughter case
TIME – Here Are the Details of the Abortion Legislation in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Elsewhere
USA Today – Alabama Is Showing the Way To Protect All Human Life From Abortion
Medium – Pregnant Women Who Are Assaulted Are Being Treated Like Criminals — Not Victims
Sam Adamo Jr., Adamo & Adamo Law Firm