Woman Charged with Murder After Taking Abortion Drug Bought Online [Update]

Illustration for article titled Woman Charged with Murder After Taking Abortion Drug Bought Online [Update]

A 23-year-old Georgia woman named Kenlissia Jones has been charged with murder after trying to self-induce an abortion with a pill she bought online. Jones’ family says she has undiagnosed psychological issues and was unable to afford a legal abortion. At 5 1/2 months pregnant, after taking the pill, she gave birth in the back of a car. After about 30 minutes, the fetus died.


Jones, who lives in Albany, a little less than 200 miles south of Atlanta, is being held on charges of “malice murder” and possession of a dangerous drug. Her brother, Ricco Riggins, told the Washington Post that Jones has been pregnant twice before. He said she has a 20-month old son named Qaden, and “gave away” the second child to another family. She’s accused of ordering the abortion drug Cytotec from Canada.

Jones’ mother Brenda told the Post she doesn’t believe her daughter’s mind is “really there,” and Riggins called her “mentally unstable,” adding that he’s not sure she understands what she did:

He said he doesn’t know whether his sister understands the gravity of what she did and the legal trouble she now faces. But he suspects she was desperate for a way out.

“The family is poor, so there’s not a lot of funds and everything,” Riggins said. “She felt like she didn’t have any money to get an abortion the legal way, and so as a result of not having money and being in a position of no resources, she ended up doing it the illegal way to not bring another child in the world … to not burden anyone else or burden herself.”

In Georgia, abortion after 20 weeks is banned by state law except in cases where the fetus has a fatal medical condition or the pregnant woman’s life is at risk. The New York-based National Advocates for Pregnant Women decried Jones’ arrest in a statement and said they will offer her free legal counsel.

“There are no criminal statutes in Georgia that permit punishment of women based on pregnancy or pregnancy outcomes,” they write. “And the constitution, as well as human rights principles, prohibit such punitive laws directed to pregnant women.”

The charge of malice murder is punishable by the death penalty or life imprisonment. District Attorney Greg Edwards told the Associated Press Tuesday afternoon that he was reviewing the case, “but as of right now she’s still charged.”

Update: On Wednesday, Edwards announced that he was dropping the murder charge against Jones, stating that “Georgia law presently does not permit prosecution of Ms. Jones for any alleged acts related to the end of her pregnancy.” According to the AP, she “still faces a misdemeanor charge of possession of a dangerous drug.”


Contact the author at anna.merlan@jezebel.com.
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Kenlissia Jones. Photo via Instagram


Seize: it's about ethics in gossip journalism

Medically speaking, the fact that the premature infant (not technically a fetus) was alive for a few minutes after birth is unsurprising and shouldn’t make this more criminal than any other late term abortion. At 5.5 months, the heart is well-developed; the lungs, not so much. This delivery would only have been viable at a NICU and even then it would have required a bit of luck. In a proper surgical late term abortion, steps are taken to end the pregnancy prior to physical removal of the pregnancy from the woman’s body.

If any of this disgusts you, that’s fine. This is a failure of our whole system and you should be disgusted. This is a failure of health care for a woman whose family identifies her as mentally impaired; this is a failure of health care for a woman who needed birth control and didn’t know how to obtain it; this is a failure of health care for a woman who needed an early abortion but couldn’t get one and thus took drastic measures.

When we restrict abortion access this is what happens. Women are forced into horrible circumstances and then they are sent to prison if they do anything but act as the state’s docile broodmares.