A manslaughter charge has been dropped against an Alabama woman whose unborn baby died during a fight in which she was shot in the stomach five times.
Marshae Jones, who was five months pregnant when she was accused of beating up a co-worker who ultimately drew a gun and fired it at her five times, wounding her in the stomach and killing her unborn baby, is no longer being considered responsible for the baby's death, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The fight occurred at a Dollar General store on Dec. 4, 2018, in Pleasant Grove, a city of approximately 10,000 residents located west of Birmingham.
“When a five-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,” Lt. Danny Reid of the Pleasant Grove Police Department, said at the time.
“That child is dependent on its mother to try to keep it from harm, and she shouldn’t seek out unnecessary physical altercations.”
The grand jury in Jefferson Country scrapped the charges against the co-worker, finding that she had acted in self-defense. Jones, however, was indicted for “initiating a fight knowing she was five months pregnant” and was arrested last week, as the grand jury deemed her culpable. Her arrest precipitated a national outcry, particularly from abortion rights advocates.
District Attorney Lynneice Washington said on Wednesday that she was dropping the case entirely.
“I have determined that 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,” she told the media.
“No further legal action will be taken against Ms. Jones in this matter.”
Washington's office was reportedly inundated with angry phone calls communicating their disgust for arresting the woman who was shot while letting the shooter go free.
“A pregnant woman was shot in the stomach during a fight. The shooting caused her pregnancy to end. She has been indicted for manslaughter. This is how people — especially women of color — are already being punished and having their pregnancies criminalized,” the National Abortion Federation tweeted in response to Jones' indictment last week.
Even though this case has nothing to do with abortion, it has placed a spotlight on the national divide between liberal states that are passing laws allowing abortion up to birth and conservative states that have passed laws placing limits on abortion.
Alabama lawmakers passed a new law regulating abortion that is arguably the strictest in the nation. Signed by Gov. Kay Ivey in May, the law essentially bans all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest, with an exemption for cases in which a woman faces a medical emergency. An unborn child in that state is considered to have the same rights as a child who has been born.
Washington, the first black female district attorney in Alabama, pushed back against criticism she received, particularly angry comments from those who argued that a wealthy white woman would have been treated differently than Jones, a working-class black woman.
“There was a barrage of insults — desecration of my integrity, my character, my name,” Alabama news outlet AL.com quoted Washington as saying before a mostly black audience at a play in Birmingham.
“I am a black woman in black skin. So don’t tell me how I don’t appreciate the sensitivity of a woman and the rights of women.”