June 27, 2019; New York Times
Reproductive rights organizations saw one of their predictions become reality on Wednesday after Marshae Jones—who, at five months pregnant, was shot in the stomach by another woman—was indicted for manslaughter yesterday for failing to remove herself from the fight during which she was shot. (The woman who shot her was initially charged as well, but the grand jury declined to indict.)
Alabama recently criminalized abortion with what is viewed as the harshest of one of a number of state laws. That law has not yet taken effect, but this prosecution, say critics, provides an indication of how far the system will go.
“The only true victim in this was the unborn baby,” said Lt. Danny Reid of the Pleasant Grove Police Department after the shooting in December. “It was the mother of the child who initiated and continued the fight which resulted in the death of her own unborn baby.”
The laws in question are most likely to affect women of color disproportionately, just as maternal mortality does. Vox reports that this is all part of a bigger picture placing women of color at particular risk. In Alabama, “black women are roughly three times more likely than white women to die during or shortly after childbirth. In 2014, fewer than half of the state’s 67 counties had hospitals that offered obstetrics services, limiting many rural women’s ability to access pre- and postnatal health care.”
Reproductive rights groups were quick to respond. Amanda Reyes of the Yellowhammer Fund said Alabama “has proven yet again that the moment a person becomes pregnant, their sole responsibility is to produce a live, healthy baby and that it considers any action a pregnant person takes that might impede in that live birth to be a criminal act.”
“Tomorrow, it will be another black woman,” she said. “Maybe for having a drink while pregnant. And after that, another, for not obtaining adequate prenatal care.” (We discuss the intricacies of the Yellowhammer Fund in another of today’s newswires.)
And NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said on Twitter: “This what 2019 looks like for a pregnant woman of color without means in a red state. This is now.”—Ruth McCambridge