WASHINGTON: An American woman who miscarried after being shot five times has been charged by Alabama authorities in the death of her foetus, a move abortion rights groups condemned on Thursday (Jun 27).
The arrest of Marshae Jones came amid heightened tensions around abortion after more than a dozen states in the southern and midwestern United States, including Alabama, passed restrictive abortion laws that are currently being challenged in court.
"Marshae Jones was indicted for manslaughter for losing a pregnancy after being shot in the abdomen five times. Her shooter remains free. We're going to get Marshae out of jail," tweeted The Yellowhammer Fund, an Alabama-based group that gives financial help to people seeking abortions.
Jones, 27, was shot in December during a fight with another woman. While the shooter was initially charged by a grand jury, prosecutors dropped that case and instead brought charges against Jones, who was arrested on Wednesday.
"The investigation showed that the only true victim in this was the unborn baby," Danny Reid, a police lieutenant in the town of Pleasant Grove where the December shooting took place, said according to the web site AL.com.
"It was the mother of the child who initiated and continued the fight which resulted in the death of her own unborn baby," he added.
Last May, Alabama adopted a law banning abortion even in cases of rape or incest, equating it with homicide.
The law is set to come into force in November, but is likely to be blocked in court because it goes against the 1973 US Supreme Court Roe v Wade ruling that legalised abortion.
The National Abortion Federation (NAF), which supports access to abortion, said Jones's case was one of many where women who miscarried as a result of misfortunes like prescription drug overdoses and car accidents are being prosecuted.
"This is how people - especially women of color - are already being punished & having their pregnancies criminalized," the NAF tweeted, referencing Jones, who is black.
Most of the new restrictive abortion measures are expected to face legal challenges and eventually end up before the Supreme Court, with the laws' supporters hoping the justices will hand down a decision restricting the right to abortion nationwide.
The top US court is now dominated by a conservative majority, including two justices appointed by President Donald Trump.