A woman charged in the death of her fetus after she was shot in the abdomen during a fight may not be prosecuted after all.
District Attorney Lynneice O. Washington called the incident in Pleasant Grove, Ala., a tragedy and said her office is deliberating whether to move forward with prosecution.
"While the Grand Jury has had its say, our office is in the process of evaluating this case and 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," Washington said in a statement late Thursday night.
"We will take a thorough look at all the facts provided, the applicable laws and reach a decision that we believe will lead to an outcome that is the most just for all the parties involved," she added.
A grand jury indicted Marshae Jones, 27, on a count of felony manslaughter in May after deciding the expectant mother "intentionally caused the death of another person, to-wit: UNBORN BABY JONES by INITIATING A FIGHT KNOWING SHE WAS FIVE MONTHS PREGNANT."
The altercation took place last December outside Dollar General, but by the time police arrived at the scene, Jones was no longer there, AL.com reported. Pleasant Grove police officers and paramedics eventually found the wounded Jones at a convenience store and she was rushed into surgery at a nearby hospital, the outlet reported.
The case gained national attention following the indictment and Jones' arrest Wednesday, as well as the grand jury's decision not to charge the shooter, Ebony Jemison, 23, who they said acted in self-defense and did not warrant charges against her.
Women's advocacy groups and abortion rights activists seized on the Alabama case as an example of punishing women for the outcome of a pregnancy. They say such thinking was also behind the state's newly passed anti-abortion law — considered among the country's most restrictive.
"If prosecutors are willing to criminalize a woman shot in the abdomen as a perpetrator of harm against the pregnancy she lost, it seems inevitable that they will try to punish Alabamians who end their own pregnancies. This is prosecutorial overreach at its most deplorable," Farah Diaz-Tello, Senior Legal Counsel at If/When/How, a reproductive rights advocacy group, said in a statement.
Similarly, Amanda Reyes, executive director at The Yellowhammer fund, an organization that provides funding for women seeking an abortion in Alabama, said the case represents a new beginning of attacks against women.
"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. ... Indicting black women for losing their pregnancies after being the target of violence is a reproductive injustice," Reyes said in a statement.
But Washington denied any connection between Jones' case and Alabama's anti-abortion law. "This case predates the passage of the legislation, and we must point out the new law played no role in the consideration of the Grand Jury," Washington said.
In an interview with Buzzfeed News, Jemison explained the violence erupted after an argument over the father of Jones' fetus. She said the gunshot that hit Jones was intended to be a "warning shot," and added that she is "not happy" about the indictment.
"I don't feel she should be charged with manslaughter because she didn't go upon killing her baby herself," Jemison said. "But she should be charged with child endangerment or assault or something like that."
She also expressed remorse over the devastating incident. "I would just say sorry and send my condolences. Because I know it's not an easy situation to deal with. All I know is if I could go back and change the situation, I would," she offered.