A SOUTH Georgia prosecutor said yesterday he has dismissed murder charges against a 23-year-old woman accused of inducing an abortion by taking pills.
Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards said in statement that Kenlissia Jones had been released from jail. But she still faces a misdemeanour charge of dangerous drug possession.
“Georgia law presently does not permit prosecution of Ms Jones for any alleged acts related to the end of her pregnancy,” the statement said.
Abortion-rights advocates and opponents alike had been stunned by the murder charge. Georgia has prohibited the prosecution of women for foeticide or for performing illegal abortions in cases involving their own pregnancies.
The 23-year-old was arrested on Saturday. A hospital social worker told police that Ms Jones said she had taken four pills she purchased over the internet, believed to be from a Canadian source, “to induce labour” because she and her boyfriend had broken up.
The social worker told police Ms Jones went into labour and delivered the foetus in a car on the way to the hospital. The foetus did not survive. The police report does not say how far along Ms Jones was in her pregnancy.
Local station WALB-TV reported earlier that authorities said Ms Jones was about five months pregnant.
Lynn Paltrow, an attorney and executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a legal group in New York, noted that state law explicitly prohibits prosecuting women for foeticide involving their own pregnancies.
A Georgia appeals court ruled in 1998 that a teenager whose foetus was stillborn after she shot herself in the abdomen could not be prosecuted for performing an illegal abortion. Prosecutors ended up dropping that case.
“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 Ms Paltrow, whose group was offering free legal aid to Ms Jones.
Genevieve Wilson, a director of the anti-abortion group Georgia Right to Life, said this was the first time she had heard of a woman in Georgia facing a murder charge for ending her pregnancy.
She agreed with Ms Paltrow that foeticide and abortion laws in the state have not been used to target women who have decided to end their own pregnancies.
“I am very surprised by the arrest,” Ms Wilson said. “And I’m thinking that perhaps whoever made the arrest may not have known what the laws really are.”
Jaime Chandra, of the Feminist Women’s Health Centre in Atlanta, said: “If women do not have the means to access medical care, they will take matters into their own hands, with tragic consequences.”
More than half of women in Georgia live in a county with no abortion clinic.
Ms Jones’ grandmother, Mary Lee Jones, said she didn’t know her granddaughter was pregnant. She said her granddaughter needed professional counselling more than jail.
“I think now, in the position she’s in, she needs to be evaluated,” her grandmother said. “She’s just not herself.”