Bringing Some Clarity to the Shooting of Marshae Jones Story

I’ve spent the last hour reading various stories about the Marshae Jones case, and I’d like to try to provide a few facts worth noting, since rarely did any of the stories include all of them. Mainstream media outlets are clearly jumping on the story and being flagrantly misleading with their headlines; pro-choice groups are jumping at the chance to accuse Alabama of being racist and wanting to prosecute pregnant women for abortions; and at least one pro-life group has tried to help but provided some faulty thought experiments.

So, let’s get some facts on the table and try to think well about this tragic story.

Fact #1: Marshae Jones, the mother, was the aggressor in this fight, not the shooter.

Marshae Jones. Photograph: Reuters

Marshae Jones. Photograph: Reuters

You certainly wouldn’t know this from the headlines, but virtually every news story agrees on the fact that Jones, with three of her friends, attacked Ebony Jemison while she was on a lunch break at work with three of her friends. Jones seems to have initiated the fight because she was jealous about Jemison’s interaction with Jones’s boyfriend. All three of them worked at the same place, Jones suspected something was going on, and convinced three of her friends to accompany her to initiate a fight with Jemison.

Fact #2: Marshae Jones knew she was 5 months pregnant when she attacked Ebony Jemison.

This isn’t a case where a mother didn’t know that she was pregnant and then had a miscarriage. She was late into her 2nd trimester, and yet initiated a serious physical confrontation with another woman and three of her friends.

Fact #3: Ebony Jemison fired a warning shot in self-defense, and the bullet ricocheted off the ground and hit Jones.

Jemison wasn’t trying to hit Jones. She claims that she was afraid, (and it seems, reasonably so) and fired a warning shot at the ground hoping it would get Jones and her friends to back off. In a horrible and very unlikely coincidence, that bullet hit the ground and then ricocheted and hit Jones in the stomach.

Forcing Taxpayers to Fund Abortion? Where’s the “Choice” in That?

The rhetoric of the pro-choice position has long been a hands-off approach to abortion, arguing that every individual should be able to do as they please in regards to abortion. Pro-choice advocates have long criticized pro-lifers for “forcing their morality” on other people.

Interestingly, the pro-choice movement is now advocating what it has long condemned — imposing their beliefs on other people. They are seeking to do this by requiring taxpayers to directly fund abortion. For the pro-choice movement, supporting abortion is no longer an option that one may voluntarily choose, but one they wish to force everyone to support. Ironically, there is no “choice” involved here.

One way to demonstrate the error in this logic is to present a hypothetical scenario that substitutes the unborn child with a toddler. Pro-choice advocates generally agree that killing a toddler is never a moral or legal way to reduce suffering, even if the child is not loved or cared for. By demonstrating that toddlers and unborn children are both morally equivalent, we can make a case for why killing an unborn child should be considered as immoral as killing a toddler.

Kansas Bombshell Shows Why State Constitutions Matter

The Kansas Supreme Court dropped a controversial 6-1 decision that overturned a state abortion restriction and cemented a right to abortion into the Kansas Constitution. This prevents Kansas from enacting any further abortion restrictions for the time being; however, there is still a way for the pro-life people of Kansas to find a way out of this situation.

Kansas Judicial Center building.

Kansas Judicial Center building. CC Image courtesy of A.D. Modlin on Flickr.

In 2015, Kansas passed a law banning Dilation and Evacuation abortions, otherwise known as D&E procedures or dismemberment abortions. The procedure is performed for most second trimester abortions, and this state law was among the first of its kind in the post-Roe era. After the law was struck down by a Kansas district court in 2015, the state appealed to the Kansas Court of Appeals, which issued a 7-7 split decision in 2016, failing to reach the majority necessary to overturn the lower court’s decision. The state of Kansas appealed once again, this time to the Kansas Supreme Court, which delivered a disappointing 6-1 decision to strike down the law.

The court’s decision was rooted in Section 1 of the Kansas Bill of Rights, which reads:

Equal rights. All men are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Section 1 of the Kansas Bill of Rights is similar to the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights, which has often been interpreted to preserve “fundamental rights” such as the right to send your child to a Christian school and the right for schools to teach foreign languages.

However, this protection of unenumerated rights is a double-edged sword, as the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the right to abortion was also a “fundamental” and “inalienable” right protected by Section 1 of the Kansas Bill of Rights. The court stated:

Section 1 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights affords protection of the right of personal autonomy, which includes the ability to control one’s own body, to assert bodily integrity, and to exercise self-determination. This right allows a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, family formation, and family life — decisions that can include whether to continue a pregnancy.

As discussed in my recent article Pro-Choice Doesn’t Have to Mean Pro-Roe, the overturning of Roe v. Wade would allow all states to make their own abortion restrictions. Because of this decision from the Kansas Supreme Court, the state of Kansas would not be able to pass any additional abortion restrictions even if Roe was overturned, as the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision is binding within the state. Now, if Kansans want to nullify the court’s decision, they will need to pass an amendment to the Kansas Constitution protecting the right to life for unborn children.

Heartbeat Laws: What You Need to Know

Several states passed abortion restrictions in the last calendar year, and more are entertaining similar bills right now. Most of these laws, dubbed “heartbeat bills,” seek to restrict abortion after the fetus has a detectable heartbeat. All of these laws are in conflict with the holdings of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and the goal in passing most of them is to provide a test case to overturn Roe.

The “heartbeat bills” are generating a lot of press, and most people want to know what exactly the laws would do if they were allowed to stand. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation and hyperbole circulating from deceitful or inaccurate sources. Our goal is to help you become informed about the contents of the laws in order to have accurate dialogue. Looking at the text of the laws and related state statutes and case law, we have compiled a reference table for you below:

Facts are as of 5/29/19

Footnotes:

  • (+) The goal of the heartbeat bill is to ban abortions after 6 weeks, but the requirement to test for a heartbeat opens the door for abortions potentially as late as 12 weeks because some ultrasound methods don’t detect a heartbeat as early.
  • * Missouri has backup bans at 14 weeks, 18 weeks, and 20 weeks in case earlier laws are stricken down.
  • ** Case law strongly indicates that women will not be held liable for criminal abortion in Georgia; the same case frowns upon investigating miscarriages. However, it is possible that women could be charged with some type of manslaughter because the law declares unborn humans with heartbeats to be natural persons.
  • *** A provision related to parental notification took effect immediately.

Roe’s Savior: The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)

The Equal Rights Amendment is one of the most polarizing topics in American politics. Ostensibly, the purpose of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is to ensure that men and women are guaranteed the same rights by law. The core text of the ERA is short and simple:

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Picture: The United States Senate chamber where the ERA will be debated.

United States Senate chamber. Public domain image.

The text alone doesn’t seem harmful. If interpreted properly, it could be helpful, as it is obviously wrong to unfairly discriminate against women. Unfortunately, rather than addressing legitimate discrimination grievances, this clause has instead been interpreted as granting a right to abortion. Pro-choice advocates are using the ERA as a Trojan horse to sneak the right to abortion into the U.S. Constitution under the guise of “gender equality.” [Tweet that!]

Adding an amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires two things: Congress must pass the amendment, and 38 states must ratify (pass) it. After Congress passed the ERA in 1972, the states had 10 years to meet this ratification quota. 35 states ratified the ERA within five years, and the amendment was initially very popular. However, this popularity was present because many states did not believe abortion to be a “right’ protected in the ERA, as Roe v. Wade had not been decided yet when the ERA passed. Consequently, five states rescinded their ratification in the years following Roe. The Constitution does not specify whether a state may rescind its ratification of an amendment, and the Supreme Court will likely have to make a ruling on this, which could be a long and controversial process.

As of now, 37 states have ratified the ERA at some point in time. The initial ten-year ratification deadline has expired; however, if one more state ratifies the ERA, the amendment could still be added to the U.S. Constitution if it is passed by Congress again. While the current Republican majority in the Senate would likely block the ERA, this is not a long-term solution. Pro-choice Democrats who support the ERA will almost certainly regain both chambers of Congress eventually, so if a 38th state ratifies it and the Supreme Court determines all of those ratifications to be valid, it will only be a matter of time until the ERA becomes the next amendment in the U.S. Constitution.