The Handmaid’s Tale comes to life in Alabama. Women must heed the warning | Zoe Williams

The ludicrous indictment of Marshae Jones for the manslaughter of her unborn child is an extreme example of a disturbing pattern

Marshae Jones was five months pregnant when another woman, Ebony Jemison, shot her in the stomach, in an Alabama town called Pleasant Grove. The 27-year-old Jones survived but the foetus, hit by the bullet, did not. Jemison successfully pleaded self-defence, since her gun was drawn in the middle of a fight that Jones reportedly started and was winning – according to an unnamed police source – until the gun was fired.

Since the shooter was exonerated, it seems odd still to be preoccupied with who started the fight. But this is one of two key elements in the extraordinary case against Jones, who was indicted for the manslaughter of her unborn child. As a pregnant woman, Jones’s alleged decision to provoke an altercation represented wilful endangerment. Since the law in Alabama confers “personhood” on a foetus, Jones was treated as she would have been had she endangered a child. Her lawyers have yet to decide whether or not to build a challenge to that idea of “personhood” into their case.

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