US & Canada

Alabama woman charged after losing unborn baby in shooting

Mugshot of Marshae Jones Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The case in Alabama has faced widespread criticism from rights groups

A 27-year-old woman in Alabama has been indicted for manslaughter after losing her unborn baby in a shooting - despite not being the shooter.

Marshae Jones was arrested on Wednesday for initiating a dispute last December that led to another woman shooting her in the stomach, local media reported.

Charges against the shooter were dismissed after a failed indictment.

Pro-choice groups are now saying it shows how the state's new restrictive abortion laws can affect other cases.

The Jefferson County Bessemer District Attorney's office issued a statement saying they are weighing whether or not to prosecute the "truly tragic case" and denying any connection to anti-abortion legislation, local media reported.

"Our office is in the process of evaluating this case and has not yet made a determination about whether to prosecute it as a manslaughter case, reduce it to a lesser charge or not to prosecute it."

On 4 December, while she was five months pregnant, Ms Jones was involved in a fight with 23-year-old Ebony Jemison outside of a Dollar General store, according to AL.com.

According to police, the argument began over the unborn child's father, and resulted in Ms Jemison eventually shooting Ms Jones and leading to her miscarriage.

Ms Jemison faced a manslaughter charge that was dismissed after a grand jury failed to indict her, AL.com reported.

Police then said that since Ms Jones allegedly started the initial argument and endangered her baby's life, she would face similar charges. Police also alleged that Ms Jemison was forced to defend herself from Ms Jones.

Pleasant Grove police Lt Danny Reid said in December: "The only true victim in this was the unborn baby. It was the mother of the child who initiated and continued the fight which resulted in the death of her own unborn baby."

Lt Reid added that the child "had no choice in being brought unnecessarily into a fight where she was relying on her mother for protection".

On Wednesday, Ms Jones was arrested for manslaughter and taken to Jefferson County Jail on a $50,000 (£40,000) bond. She was released on Thursday after posting the bond.

Ms Jemison has called the indictment unjust.

"I don't feel she should be charged with manslaughter because she didn't go upon killing her baby herself," she told Buzzfeed.

"But she should be charged with child endangerment or assault or something like that."

Rights groups' condemnation

Women's rights activists and pro-choice advocates have condemned the state for pressing charges on Ms Jones - reigniting conversations around how the state's newly legalised anti-abortion measures can affect women even in non-abortion cases.

But the county district attorney's office stated on Friday that the new abortion law played no role in the case.

"This case predates the passage of the legislation and we must point out the new law played no role in the consideration of the Grand Jury," the statement said.

Pleasant Grove Police and the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the BBC.

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Media captionThe abortion battle explained in three minutes

The Yellowhammer Fund pro-choice advocacy group has said they will assist with Ms Jones' legal representation.

Amanda Reyes, the organisation's executive director, said in a statement: "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.

"Tomorrow, it will be another black woman, maybe for having a drink while pregnant. And after that, another, for not obtaining adequate prenatal care."

Ilyse Hogue, president of Naral Pro-Choice America, said on Twitter: "This is what 2019 looks like for a pregnant woman of colour without means in a red [Republican] state."

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