June 28, 2019

Caucus on Black Women and Girls Cochairs Express Outrage at Criminalization of Miscarriage in Charges for Alabama Woman

Today, Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls Co-Chairs Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), and Robin Kelly (D-IL) addressed the alarming case of Marshae Jones, a young African American woman in Alabama being charged with manslaughter for miscarrying her child after being shot in the stomach.

“This is a disgusting, though sadly not uncommon, display of the disparities faced by African American women in our legal system and in reproductive rights,” said Representative Watson Coleman. “The idea that any woman would be charged with manslaughter while suffering the grief and anguish of losing her child exposes the cruel indifference with which the law is applied to poor women of color in this country. It’s also the manifestation of the outsize risk Black women face in criminalizing our bodies and reproductive choices. Will states prosecute poor women for neglect if they cannot afford prenatal vitamins? Will they charge a pregnant woman with child endangerment if she suffers fatigue from the two jobs she works to make ends meet? It is unacceptable to hold women criminally liable for their pregnancy outcomes.”

“I am both saddened and appalled that in 2019, our society still has not granted Black women autonomy of our bodies and reproductive rights,” said Representative Clarke. “This is a senseless demonstration of the constant discrimination and mistreatment Black women face in our nation’s legal system. It is cruel that Ms. Jones could possibly face jail time for manslaughter during her time of grief after losing a child and as she heals from the injuries sustained from gun violence. Being a Black woman is not crime. We must come together to advocate for women like Ms. Jones so Black women across the country know that they will be protected under law.”

“It’s appalling that a woman who has lost a child and suffered a traumatic gun injury would be treated so callously in her moment of grief,” said Representative Kelly. “As an African American woman, I am all too aware of the health and sentencing disparities that plague communities of color. This charge is a stark reminder of the criminalizing of women’s reproductive health, and the racial disparities that exist in our justice system. Where is the justice? These types of unconstitutional attacks must be stopped.”

This week, a grand jury charged Jones, who was five months pregnant when she was shot in the stomach, with manslaughter for the death of her unborn child on the basis that she started the fight that resulted the shooting. Jones is currently in jail awaiting trial. The Caucus on Black Women and Girls is the first Congressional Member Organization to center the struggles and success of African American women and girls in the policy debates of Congress.