Alabama resident Marshae Jones was five months pregnant when she was shot in the stomach and lost her pregnancy, but she—not the shooter—is being charged with manslaughter.

By Libby Ryan
June 27, 2019

Alabama woman Marshae Jones was shot in the stomach in 2018, when she was five months pregnant. The fetus didn’t survive. On Wednesday, Jones was indicted for manslaughter for the unborn child’s death.

The alleged shooter, Ebony Jemison, was initially charged with manslaughter, but the charge was dismissed after a grand jury didn’t indict her.

Local law enforcement is holding Jones responsible for the unborn baby's death because she allegedly initiated a fight with Jemison.

“The investigation showed that the only true victim in this was the unborn baby,’’ Pleasant Grove police Lt. Danny Reid said at the time of the shooting, according to AL.com. “It was the mother of the child who initiated and continued the fight which resulted in the death of her own unborn baby.”

Reid placed the blame for the death firmly in Jones’ hands, telling AL.com at the time of the shooting, “When a 5-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.”

The news comes weeks after Alabama passed strict new abortion laws, banning nearly all abortions and raising questions on whether women who miscarried would be prosecuted, as a medical abortion and miscarriage can be similar. Activist groups say they see the Jones indictment as the first step on a dangerous path.

“Instead of treating Marshae Jones with compassion after being shot and losing her pregnancy, Alabama has decided to further her trauma and the injustice she has already experienced by charging her, not the person who shot her, with a crime,” Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director of feminist group UltraViolet, said in a statement.

Amanda Reyes, executive director of The Yellowhammer Fund, an organization that provides assistance to those seeking abortions in Alabama, agreed.

"Today, Marshae Jones is being charged with manslaughter for being pregnant and getting shot while engaging in an altercation with a person who had a gun,” she said in a statement. “Tomorrow, it will be another black woman, maybe for having a drink while pregnant. And after that, another, for not obtaining adequate prenatal care.”

Pregnant black women already face higher risks than their white mother-to-be counterparts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African-American (and Native American) women have three to four times the risk of dying a pregnancy-related death than white women. Many experts agree that a major reason black women are dying from pregnancy complications is because their health concerns are taken less seriously by healthcare professionals.

“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,” Thomas said. “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.”

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