Charges against Marshae Jones, the pregnant Alabama woman arrested for killing her fetus, were dropped by prosecutors on Wednesday.
The announcement by Lynneice Washington, the district attorney for part of Jefferson County, is seen as a victory for Jones and for reproductive health rights, especially in Alabama, where a strict new abortion ban potentially criminalizes women and where there’s increasing support for “fetal personhood” giving equal or greater rights to fetuses over pregnant women.
Jones, 28, was five months pregnant when she got into an altercation in December with another woman outside a Dollar General and was shot in the stomach. Though the details of the altercation remain fuzzy, the two women were allegedly fighting about the father of Jones’ unborn child. Jones suffered a miscarriage a short time after, and cops blamed her for instigating the fight that led to the death of her baby.
The case sparked national outrage last week when Jones was arrested for manslaughter. A grand jury had originally brought manslaughter charges against the other woman, Ebony Jemison, who’d claimed she fired at Jones in self-defense. But those charges were ultimately dropped, and then the same grand jury charged Jones, saying she’d provoked Jemison to shoot her.
But now Jones won't be prosecuted.
“It is not in the best interest of justice to pursue prosecution of Ms. Jones on the manslaughter charge for which she was indicted by the grand jury,” Washington said at a press conference Wednesday.
She further stated the decision to indict Jones wasn’t necessarily the grand jury’s fault, but she made it clear that no further legal action will be taken against her. “The members of the grand jury took to heart that the life of an unborn child was violently ended and believed someone should be held accountable. But in the interests of all concerned, we are not prosecuting the case,” she said.
But women in Alabama are still up against the state’s strict fetal homicide laws.
According to a ProPublica investigation, Alabama is known for charging hundreds of pregnant women who've taken medications, under the state’s “chemical endangerment of a child” statute, the country’s strictest law on prenatal drug use.
Cover: A woman in her 8th month of pregnancy poses during a press conference for the Babywelt baby trade fair in Dresden, Germany, 31 March 2016. The fair takes place at the Dresden Messe from 02 to 03 April 2016. Photo by: Sebastian Kahnert/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images