Alabama woman charged over death of unborn baby

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An Alabama prosecutor’s office has not decided whether to prosecute a woman who lost her foetus after she was shot in the stomach and was subsequently charged with manslaughter.

Marshae Jones was five months’ pregnant when 23-year-old Ebony Jemison shot her in the stomach during a December altercation regarding the foetus’s father, authorities said.

Ms Jemison was initially charged with manslaughter, but a Jefferson County grand jury declined to indict her after police said an investigation determined Ms Jones started the fight, and Ms Jemison ultimately fired in self-defence.

Ms Jones, 28, was indicted by the same grand jury on Wednesday.

The indictment stated Jones did “intentionally cause the death” of “Unborn Baby Jones by initiating a fight knowing she was five months pregnant”.

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However, the office of District Attorney Lynneice O Washington said there has been no decision on whether to pursue the case against Ms Jones.

Ms Washington’s office said in a statement they “feel sympathy for all the families involved, including Mrs Jones, who lost her unborn child”.

While the grand jury “had its say”, the statement said, the office 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”.

“Foremost, it should be stated that this is a truly tragic case, resulting in the death of an unborn child,” the prosecutor’s office said.

“The fact that this tragedy was 100% avoidable makes this case even more disheartening.”

After the shooting, Pleasant Grove police Lt Danny Reid had called the foetus “the only true victim”, who was unnecessarily brought into a fight and was “dependent on its mother to try to keep it from harm”.

Advocates for women’s rights expressed outrage over Jones’ arrest.

Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said women across the country have been prosecuted for manslaughter or murder for having an abortion or experiencing a miscarriage.

She said Alabama currently leads the nation in charging women for crimes related to their pregnancies.

She said hundreds have been prosecuted for contravening the state’s “chemical endangerment of a child” statute by exposing their embryo or foetus to controlled substances.

But this is the first time she has heard of a pregnant woman being charged after getting shot.

“This takes us to a new level of inhumanity and illegality towards pregnant women,” Ms Paltrow said.

“I can’t think of any other circumstance where a person who themselves is a victim of a crime is treated as the criminal.”

The district attorney’s office said it will decide how to proceed “only after all due diligence has been performed”.

Alabama is one of dozens of states that have foetal homicide laws allowing criminal charges when foetuses are killed in violent acts, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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