Woman charged with murder after taking abortion pill

Associated Press

Albany, Ga. — Advocates on both sides of the abortion debate said Tuesday that they are stunned authorities have charged a Georgia woman with murder after she was accused of terminating her pregnancy by taking an abortion pill.

Kenlissia Jones, 23, of Albany was being held at the Dougherty County jail on charges of malice murder and possession of a dangerous drug. District Attorney Greg Edwards said Tuesday afternoon that he is reviewing the case, but “as of right now she’s still charged.”

Prosecuting Jones seems at odds with Georgia case law, said Lynn Paltrow, an attorney and executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a legal group in New York. She noted state law explicitly prohibits prosecuting women for feticide involving their own pregnancies. And a Georgia appeals court ruled in 1998 that a teenager whose fetus 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 Paltrow, whose group is offering free legal aid to Jones.

Genevieve Wilson, a director of the anti-abortion group Georgia Right to Life, said this is the first time she has heard of a woman in Georgia facing a murder charge for ending her pregnancy. And Wilson agreed with Paltrow that feticide and abortion laws in the state have not been used to target women who end their own pregnancies.

“I am very surprised by the arrest,” Wilson said. “And I’m thinking that perhaps whoever made the arrest may not have known what the laws really are.”

Edwards said he is taking a close look before deciding ultimately whether to follow through with prosecuting Jones.

“Those are the issues that we’re trying to unravel,” said Edwards, who declined to discuss details of the case. “We’re looking as best we can at what’s going on with the investigation and the law.”

Albany police referred calls about the case back to the district attorney. The Associated Press asked for a copy of the police report on Jones’ case and was told a request must be made in writing under Georgia’s open-records act. The Albany city attorney did not immediately respond to AP’s written request for the document.

WALB-TV reported police arrested Jones on Saturday night after she delivered the fetus in a car while a neighbor was driving her to the hospital. The TV station reported that authorities said Jones was about 5 ½ months pregnant when she took a Cytotec abortion pill she had purchased online.

Jones’ grandmother, Mary Lee Jones, said she didn’t know her granddaughter was pregnant. She said her granddaughter often seems troubled and likely needs professional counseling more than jail.

“I think now, in the position she’s in, she needs to be evaluated,” Jones’ grandmother said. “She’s just not herself.”