4 Jul 2019

Manslaughter charges dropped against shot pregnant woman

2:02 pm on 4 July 2019

An Alabama district attorney has dropped manslaughter charges against a woman who lost her unborn child after being shot in the stomach during an altercation.

Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Alabama.

The Alabama Statehouse. In May, the governor signed passed a near-total ban on abortion. Photo: AFP / Getty Images

Marshae Jones, 28, was shot while five months pregnant.

She was charged after police alleged that she had started the fight, endangering the child's life.

"There are no winners in this case, only losers in the sad ordeal," said prosecutor Lynneice Washington.

Women's rights advocates had expressed outrage over the charges against Ms Jones.

The decision was announced by the Jefferson County District Attorney in a press conference on Wednesday.

"We are gratified the district attorney evaluated the matter and chose not to proceed with a case that was neither reasonable nor just," lawyers for Ms Jones said after the decision was announced.

Charges against the co-worker accused of shooting Ms Jones had already been dismissed following a failed indictment.

What is the case?

The altercation on 4 December happened outside a Dollar General store where Ms Jones and Ebony Jemison worked.

Police ruled that Ms Jones had started the fight, hitting Ms Jemison, then pinning her against a car.

They said Ms Jemison had then reached for a gun and fired point-blank into Ms Jones's stomach.

An unnamed police source told the New York Times the feud had started over a man with whom they both worked.

Pro-choice abortion advocates decried the charges against Ms Jones as an attempt by the state to enforce "personhood", a movement which works for the rights of foetuses to be recognised as people.

"Personhood" has been pushed by anti-abortion advocates who say the unborn child has as much a right to life as the mother herself.

In May, Alabama passed a near-total ban on abortion, including in cases of rape and incest. Abortion rights advocates say it is the most restrictive law in the nation.

What is the reaction?

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) praised the decision, saying it "represents precisely what we want to see in these critical moments: a prosecutor who is not afraid to use prosecutorial discretion and power to refuse to prosecute when the law and justice demand that charges should be dropped".

Ms Jones' lawyer, Mark White, said "the District Attorney's decision will help Marshae continue to heal from this tragic event".

"With the dismissal of charges, the community of support that surrounded Marshae can now channel its immense passion and energy toward ensuring such a case never happens again."

Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, told AP News that more cases like this should be expected.

"We hope there are no more cases like this in the future, but our experience in 40 years of cases suggests that we will see many more such misuses of the law in the name of foetal personhood in the future," she said.