Now, after the case sparked international outcry, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Marshae Jones was five months pregnant when she was shot in the stomach, according to multiple US news reports. She suffered a miscarriage shortly after.
And yet it was Jones – not her shooter – had been indicted in Alabama’s Jefferson County on manslaughter charges.
“Let’s not lose sight that the unborn baby is the victim here,’’ Lt. Danny Reid of the Pleasant Grove Police Department said after the shooting, according to AL.com. “She had no choice in being brought unnecessarily into a fight where she was relying on her mother for protection.”
Reid added that the five-month foetus was “dependent on its mother to try to keep it from harm, and she shouldn’t seek out unnecessary physical altercations”. His meaning was all too clear: Jones was culpable because she started the fight that led to the shooting, and because she failed to remove herself from harm’s way.
Now, though, following outcry from women’s rights advocates across the US, an Alabama district attorney has dropped the charges against Jones.
“We are gratified the district attorney evaluated the matter and chose not to proceed with a case that was neither reasonable nor just,” Jones’ lawyers said after the decision was announced, according to the BBC.
What was the initial reaction to the Marshae Jones case?
Shortly after being charged with manslaughter, Jones was released from jail after posting $50,000 bond, according to the authorities and the website of Jefferson County Sherriff’s Office.
As soon as details of her case became widely available, however, advocates and women’s rights activists expressed their outrage over Jones’ treatment.
The Yellowhammer Fund, a member of the National Network of Abortion Funds which helps women access abortion services, released a statement which read: “The state of 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.
“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.
The statement finished: “We commit ourselves to making sure that Marshae is released from jail on bond, assisting with her legal representation, and working to ensure that she gets justice for the multiple attacks that she has endured.”
Ilyse Hogue, the president of non-profit NARAL Pro-Choice America, added that Jones’ treatment highlights another issue: the treatment of black women in America.
“Marshae Jones was indicted for homicide when someone shot her in the stomach while she was pregnant, ending her pregnancy,” she said.
“They said she ‘started it’. The shooter went free. This what 2019 looks like for a pregnant woman of colour without means in a red state. This is now.”
What have people said about the judge’s decision to drop charges against Marshae Jones?
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”.
However 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.
Her warning comes just over a month after Alabama’s Kay Ivey signed the strictest anti-abortion law in the country, effectively banning almost all abortions in the state and not including exceptions for rape and incest.
Of course, that law is not set to take effect until November, and Jones was not charged under it. But there’s no denying that it sets a frightening precedent of what’s to come.