In the days since police officers arrested Marshae Jones, saying she had started a fight that resulted in her unborn baby getting fatally shot, the hate mail has poured in, The New York Times reports.
“I will encourage all U.S. business owners to boycott your town,” a woman from San Diego wrote on the Facebook page of the Pleasant Grove Police Department. “Misogynist trash,” wrote another. “Fire the chief and arresting officers,” wrote a third.
But Robert Knight, the police chief, said his officers had little choice in the matter.
“If the laws are there, we are sworn to enforce them,” he said. “That’s what we’re going to do.”
According to the Times, across the country, the case of Jones, who was indicted by a grand jury for manslaughter, has served as a stark illustration of how pregnant women can be judged and punished when a fetus is treated as a person by the justice system.
Activists have also cited it as a demonstration of the dangers of the “personhood” movement, which pushes for the rights of fetuses to be recognized as equal to, or even more important than the rights of the mothers who carry them. And many are now watching as the movement gains momentum in Alabama, which already has some of the most restrictive reproductive rights laws in the country.
But in Pleasant Grove, a city of 10,000 people on the western outskirts of Birmingham, the case appears to have caused little controversy. Gun rights are popular here. Reproductive rights are not. Many conversations in the city focused on how harshly Jones should be punished, not whether she was culpable.
Outside Hill’s Foodland, the city’s only grocery store, two mothers raising money for the Pleasant Grove middle school cheerleading squad said that both Ms. Jones, 28, and the woman who shot her should face some consequences, perhaps anger management classes, for the death of a fetus.
“In the state of Alabama, an unborn baby has the same rights as a living child,” said Sharonda Hall, 38, who just earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and is hoping to attend law school. “Most people agree with it.”
Others said prison time would be appropriate. Inside a local restaurant, the Olipita Mediterranean & American Grill, Forrest Brown, 64, a retired musician, said that from what he had heard so far about the case, he believed the indictment was fair. “You have to go by the law,” he said.
The notion that the law should treat a fetus like a person is widely held in Alabama. Lawmakers passed the most restrictive anti-abortion bill in the country in May, banning abortions at any stage of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. A protest against the measure in Birmingham drew only about 2,000 people, in a metropolitan area that is home to more than one million, the Times added.
Last November, Alabama voters approved a ballot measure that amended the state’s constitution to recognize the “sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children.”