UPDATE: The murder charge against Kenlissia Jones was dropped Wednesday because District Attorney Greg Edwards said Georgia state law does not permit prosecution for “alleged acts relating to the end of her pregnancy,” the Washington Post reports.
A Georgia woman is in jail with murder charges hanging over her because she took a pill to induce an abortion, resulting in the death of her fetus as she was en route to the hospital.
According to local WALB News, Kenlissia Jones, 23, purchased a drug called Cytotech online from a source in Canada. On Saturday, she took the drug at around 8 p.m., causing her to experience pain. As a neighbor drover her to the hospital, the pills took effect, and the fetus lived for about a half hour outside her body. She was arrested and jailed on charges of malice murder and possession of a dangerous drug.
She was about five-and-a-half months pregnant, the station reported. Georgia law prohibits abortions after 20 weeks gestation.
Jones, who has a toddler, was jailed without bond. The charges leveled against her surprised everyone from anti-abortion activists to the district attorney reviewing the case.
Legal experts say prosecuting Jones would fly in the face of Georgia state and case law, the Wall Street Journal reports. State law forbids prosecuting women for feticide in association with their own pregnancies, attorney and women’s advocate Lynn Paltrow told the Journal. And a precedent-setting case determined a teen who shot herself in the abdomen while pregnant, resulting in a stillbirth, couldn’t be prosecuted for performing an illegal abortion. Prosecutors dropped the case.
“I have been involved in the pro-life movement for well over 20 years, and I’m not aware of a situation like this ever,” Genevieve Wilson, a director of the anti-abortion group Georgia Right to Life, told Talking Points Memo. “I’m very surprised by it.”
District Attorney Greg Edwards told WALB he has never seen a case like this, but Tuesday evening remarked, “as of right now she’s still charged.”
Jones’ family members said they didn’t know she was pregnant and expressed grief.
“We lost what would have been a nephew for me. And everything. And then my sister,” her brother, Rico Riggins told WALB. He and his wife are caring for Jones’ toddler son.
Jones is one of a growing number of American women criminally charged for abortion-related issues. Purvi Patel, a 33-year-old Indiana woman, was the first to be convicted of feticide, NBC News reports. In March, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Anne Bynum, 37, of Arkansas, was arrested and charged in April with concealing a birth and abusing a corpse after taking an abortion-inducing pill, delivering a fetus that died shortly after birth, then wrapping the body in a bag for several hours before going to the hospital, ArkansasOnline reports. Bynum is free on $20,000 bail.