A 23-year-old Georgia woman was arrested yesterday and charged with malice murder and possession of a dangerous drug for attempting an at-home abortion using the drug misoprostol. The charges, which are unprecedented in the state of Georgia, have left groups on all sides of the abortion debate stunned.
According to Dougherty County authorities, Kenlissa Jones was arrested on Saturday after a call from hospital social worker. The social worker reported to police that Jones had gone into labor after taking four misoprostol pills she had purchased over the Internet. Jones then delivered the fetus, which did not survive. Following her arrest, Jones was taken to the Dougherty County jail and held without bond.
“We don’t believe there is any law in Georgia that allows for the arrest of a woman for the outcome of her pregnancy,” said Lynn Paltrow, attorney and Executive Director for the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW).
NAPW released a statement condemning the arrest of Jones, saying that not only is there no law in Georgia that allows for the arrest of women based on the outcome of their pregnancies, such an arrest is actually at odds with existing state law.
“There are no criminal statutes in Georgia that permit punishment of women based on pregnancy or pregnancy outcomes – and the constitution, as well as human rights principles, prohibit such punitive laws directed to pregnant women,” the statement reads.
Indeed, Genevieve Wilson, a director of the anti-abortion group Georgia Right to Life, says she was “very surprised by the arrest,” and that “I’m thinking that perhaps whoever made the arrest may not have known what the laws really are.”
Paltrow and other abortion rights activists are concerned with the increasing trend of criminalizing pregnant women, as in the case of an Indiana woman sentenced to 20 years in prison for charges of feticide after suffering a miscarriage. Patel was convicted of both terminating her pregnancy on purpose and abandoning a live, delivered fetus. However, there is no evidence to support the idea that she abandoned a living fetus – there was no evidence she took an abortion-inducing pill, and no proof the fetus was alive once it existed her body. Patel has remained consistent that what happened was that she suffered a miscarriage, and has since filed an appeal.
“People who seek medical attention for any aspect of pregnancy – including prenatal care, labor and delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion – should not fear arrest. There is no role for police or prosecutors in reproductive health,” the NAPW states.
Media Resources: NAPW Statement 6/9/15; HuffingtonPost 6/9/15; Feminist Newswire 4/29/15; 4/2/15;