Kenlissa Jones will not face murder charges for abortion in the fifth month of pregnancy. The Dougherty County woman took four doses of Cytotec, pills she ordered online that can induce non-surgical abortions. She delivered on the way to the hospital; her son died 30 minutes after arriving at the hospital.
From the New York Times:
The Dougherty County district attorney, Greg Edwards, dismissed a malice murder charge against the woman, Kenlissa Jones, 23, who spent about three days in jail after seeking help at a hospital. But he said she still faced a misdemeanor charge of possessing a dangerous drug, which Georgia defines as any drug requiring a prescription. Georgia has prohibited the prosecution of women for feticide or for performing illegal abortions in cases involving their own pregnancies. Mr. Edwards said that the arresting officers acted within their authority and used their “best understanding of the law,” but that their understanding was incorrect.
No one wants this case. Despite a few murmerings of Acela rage, this falls well outside the image that pro-choice groups wish to project. You can see it in the language: the Huffington Post mentions a “baby boy,” the National Association for Pregnant Women the awkward “pregnancy outcome,” and Slate defends an “attempted abortion.” Even in the eyes of pro-choice groups, there is something categorically different about a baby that is born, lives outside his mother’s womb, and dies as a result of chemicals she consumed. Discussing a similar (and better publicized) case in Indiana, Emily Bazelon acknowledges “if this case were only about a woman who clearly gave birth to a live baby and then killed her child, it would be clear cut.” What’s the medical definition of a clear birth?
Yet no one on the right is leaping to demonize Jones. The AP reports that “even abortion opponents figured the murder charge wouldn’t stick. ‘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,’ said Genevieve Wilson, a director of Georgia Right to Life.” (Apparently the AP didn’t get the memo.) As mentioned above, Georgia law prohibits the prosecution of women who illegally abort, as do most states. Overzealous prosecutors occasionally discover a clever charge like felony child neglect, but legal immunity for the women who request abortions opposed by pro-life groups has long been a feature of the movement. Pity the foolish advocate who intends to prosecute a third of American women.
The pro-life movement has an important intellectual and moral advantage in its clarity. It opposes abortion and its legalization. The pro-choice movement, meanwhile, differs on whether abortion should be permitted in the first, second, or third trimester. Fox News will occasionally dig up some community college scholar arguing for the fifth. That’s why so much time in these debates gets sucked up in vanishingly small scenarios like rape and incest: if a door can be opened for what is ostensibly murder, it can be widened.
Hence the problem with nibbling at the edges of abortion jurisprudence. When legislators pass laws that prohibit those abortions to which a clear majority object, it risks establishing differences of kind between that which they oppose completely. It produces these horror stories of dead infants, bleeding and mistreated women, and red-state cruelty. It loses all clarity while begetting tragedy.
Thank God Greg Edwards knew better.