They Arrested Her For Losing Her Pregnancy

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Society told us our pregnant bodies weren’t our own; now they’re criminalizing us.

I can’t stop thinking about Marshae Jones, the Alabama woman charged with manslaughter for the loss of her pregnancy. Jones was five months pregnant when someone else shot her in the stomach, while apparently trying to fire a warning shot at the ground. Jones was unarmed.

A grand jury indicted Jones — the pregnant woman —reasoning she shouldn’t have been getting in fights, because she was pregnant.

Because we all know pregnant people are supposed to spend all day dressed in white, folding onesies, with calm smiles on their faces and halos over their heads.

The woman who shot her, Ebony Jemison, told Buzzfeed News, “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.”

There are so many issues here, it’s hard to know where to begin. This story perfectly illustrates the lengths men in power will go to to control the bodies of women, transmen, and nonbinary folks with uteri.

Even if you believe Jones shouldn’t have been getting in fights, why exactly should society respond by criminalizing someone who’s already going through physical and emotional trauma? And if there are charges, shouldn’t they be assault?

Jemison, the shooter, told Buzzfeed News, “I don’t feel as if it’s fair for her to sit in jail after dealing with her losing her child situation.”

It’s telling that Jemison, the woman who shot Jones, is showing empathy, but men in power are not.

Pleasant Grove police Lt. Danny Reid said, “The investigation showed that the only true victim in this was the unborn baby.”

Jones was shot in the stomach, lost her pregnancy, and is now charged with manslaughter. But the police insist she’s not a “true victim.”

Rhetoric like this leads to thinking of pregnant people as host bodies rather than people deserving of basic rights.

While ignoring Jones’ humanity, Conservatives use cases like this to attempt to get precedent in court. If a court rules this as manslaughter, they can more easily argue a fetus is a person, and a fetus’s rights outweigh a pregnant person’s. Ta-da! No more Roe v. Wade!

At least 38 states already have fetal homicide laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Alabama’s legal definition of a person includes “an unborn child in utero at any stage of development, regardless of viability.”

Anyone who’s been pregnant knows how society treats us as vessels, rather than people. There’s no shortage of unwanted advice: don’t sit too much — but don’t stand too much — but don’t exercise too much — but don’t work too much — but definitely don’t be lazy.

Online, if a pregnant person asks a question: “Do I really need to quit eating bean sprouts now that I’m pregnant?” the replies will usually veer into all-caps territory:

WHY WOULD YOU EVEN RISK IT? DO YOU WANT YOUR BABY TO DIE!?

When I read about Jones’ situation, my first thought is I want to give her a hug and take all this trauma away. My second thought is, the all-caps pregnancy advice comes from the same mentality as that criminalizing Jones’ pregnancy loss.

Yes, let’s support pregnant people in having healthy, safe pregnancies. But let’s do it with widespread, accurate information; free healthcare with doctors and midwives; and with constant respect for the people who are pregnant, for their unique lives and circumstances.

Each year, at least 300,000 Americans are abused by a partner while pregnant. The total number might be far higher, as abuse is often unreported.

When we treat pregnancy as though it’s a removal of our personhood and choice, aren’t we making abuse more likely? Rather than trying to control the abused, shouldn’t we be taking on the abusers and changing the societal norms that promote this abuse?

It’s not a woman’s fault if her partner abuses her. It’s not anyone’s fault if someone else abuses them.

It’s not Jones’ fault she got shot in the stomach.

And hasn’t she suffered enough already?

Pregnant people are supposed to spend all day dressed in white, folding onesies, with calm smiles on their faces and halos over their heads.

Jones, who is recovering from surgery and has a 6-year-old to raise, was released Thursday after posting $50,000 bond. The Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney’s Office released a statement that they will soon make a determination about whether and how to prosecute her.

I have a 4-year-old daughter. When I was pregnant, I occasionally ate sprouts. Sometimes I drank coffee. On New Year’s Eve, I drank a sip of hard cider.

I had a healthy pregnancy and labor. But if I’d had complications, if I’d miscarried, would the government be coming for me, charging me with manslaughter?

Your Honor, take a look at Exhibit A. Are those BEAN SPROUTS on her phở!? Did she WANT her baby to die?

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