Mur­der charge over abor­tion dropped

Ge­or­gia woman who took pills to end her preg­nancy is re­leased, but faces drug count.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Jenny Jarvie na­tion@la­times.com

AT­LANTA — Pros­e­cu­tors dropped a mur­der charge Wed­nes­day against a Ge­or­gia woman who took pills to ter­mi­nate her preg­nancy, ad­mit­ting that the state could not pun­ish her for her ac­tions against her un­born fe­tus.

Ken­lis­sia Jones, 23, of Al­bany, Ga., was ar­rested Satur­day af­ter she gave birth in the back of a neigh­bor’s Chevrolet Malibu on the way to a hos­pi­tal. The new­born did not sur­vive.

Five and a half months preg­nant, she had taken four pre­scrip­tion abor­tion pills she or­dered on­line from a Canadian phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany.

Af­ter re­view­ing Ge­or­gia law, Dougherty County Dist. Atty. Gre­gory W. Ed­wards re­leased Jones and is­sued a state­ment say­ing that he and his staff had con­cluded that a woman could not be pros­e­cuted for any acts re­lated to the ter­mi­na­tion of her preg­nancy.

“Although third par­ties could be crim­i­nally pros­e­cuted for their ac­tions re­lat­ing to an il­le­gal abor­tion, as the law cur­rently stands in Ge­or­gia, crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion of a preg­nant woman for her own ac­tions against an un­born child does not seem to be per­mit­ted,” Ed­wards said in a state­ment.

“Ap­pli­ca­ble crim­i­nal law and statutes pro­vide ex­plicit im­mu­nity from pros­e­cu­tion for a preg­nant woman for any un­law­ful ter­mi­na­tion of her preg­nancy,” he added.

Jones was re­leased af­ter pros­e­cu­tors dis­missed the charge of mal­ice mur­der, which car­ries a pun­ish­ment of life im­pris­on­ment or death. A mis­de­meanor charge of pos­ses­sion of a danger­ous drug — the abor­tion pill, Cy­totec — still stands.

Jones’ fam­ily, who had no idea that she was preg­nant un­til Satur­day, strug­gled Wed­nes­day to com­pre­hend what had hap­pened.

“She found her­self in a real dark place, and I know it was dark,” said Tonya Rig­gins, 33, Jones’ older sis­ter, who lives in Texas. “We were raised on Chris­tian val­ues. We be­lieve in God. Maybe she should have made a bet­ter de­ci­sion, but she felt trapped.”

Jones’ fa­ther, Ken­neth Jones, 52, who had vis­ited her in the hos­pi­tal be­fore she was jailed, said he was up­set but had tried to be sup­port- ive.

“It was un­real,” he said. “It was when I saw the baby. I just couldn’t be­lieve it. I was shocked. I re­ally and truly think she could have told us, and we would have ac­cepted the baby.”

Jones said he was urg­ing his daugh­ter to seek coun­sel­ing. “She’s just not nor­mal,” he said. “Any­body who can take any kind of medicine that could harm not only their baby, but their own self, should be con­sid­ered men­tally dis­turbed.”

Rig­gins, how­ever, dis­puted the idea that Jones is men­tally ill, say­ing her sis­ter was fac­ing con­sid­er­able so­cial and eco­nomic chal­lenges. Job­less and with­out re­li­able trans­porta­tion, she was not fi­nan­cially sta­ble.

“When I talked to her yes­ter­day, her first words were, ‘I got to find out where the baby is,’ ” Rig­gins said. “I don’t think re­al­ity has re­ally set in.”

Jones is not the first woman to face crim­i­nal charges for at­tempt­ing to abort her fe­tus. In 2011, an Idaho woman, Jen­nie Linn McCor­mack, was ar­rested and charged with a felony for tak­ing abor­tion pills in her sec­ond trimester. A judge dis­missed the case for lack of ev­i­dence, yet McCor­mack went on to bring a class-ac­tion suit, ask­ing a court to re­ject as un­con­sti­tu­tional the Idaho law that makes it il­le­gal to ob­tain abor­tion pills over the In­ter­net.

On May 29, the U.S. 9th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals ruled in her fa­vor, af­firm­ing a lower court’s in­val­i­da­tion of Idaho’s self-in­duced abor­tion statute.

In Arkansas, a 37-yearold woman, Anne Bynum, is cur­rently fac­ing charges of one count of con­ceal­ing a birth and one count of abuse of a corpse af­ter a nurse ad­min­is­tered a drug that would ter­mi­nate her preg­nancy. Bynum is free on a $20,000 bond. The nurse is set to ap­pear in court this month on charges of per­form­ing an un­li­censed abor­tion and pro­vid­ing an un­law­ful abor­tion.

As states have passed hun­dreds of laws that clas­sify abor­tions as crimes, penal­ties have been ex­plic­itly di­rected at doc­tors and third par­ties, said Lynn Pal­trow, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Na­tional Ad­vo­cates for Preg­nant Women, a legal ad­vo­cacy group based in New York. Women who get abor­tions, how­ever, have in­creas­ingly found their ac­tions deemed sub­ject to crim­i­nal pun­ish­ment.

In Ge­or­gia — which in 2012 banned abor­tions af­ter 20 weeks of preg­nancy, the time af­ter which an­tiabor­tion ac­tivists say a fe­tus can feel pain — an­tiabor­tion groups are un­easy about the idea of ar­rest­ing women who vi­o­late abor­tion laws.

“The un­be­liev­able fact is that if she had re­gret­tably gone through a sur­gi­cal abor­tion to end the life of the child, none of this would be ques­tioned,” said Genevieve Wil­son, direc­tor of Ge­or­gia Right to Life.

Yet ar­rest­ing women for ter­mi­nat­ing preg­nan­cies, Pal­trow said, is not the an­swer.

“This ar­rest pulls away the fa­cade of care and pro­tec­tion for women,” she said. “In­evitably, if you char­ac­ter­ize the out­come of preg­nancy as mur­der, that will nec­es­sar­ily stick to the women too.”

Dougher ty County Sher­iff ’s Off ice

KEN­LIS­SIA JONES was ar­rested for tak­ing abor­tion pills she bought over the In­ter­net.

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