Kenlissia Jones, a 23-year-old black woman in Albany, Georgia, was arrested and charged with malice murder and possession of a dangerous drug on Saturday June 6 after taking Cytotec, often referred to as an “abortion pill.” Jones delivered a five-and-a-half month fetus in a neighbor’s car while en route to the hospital. The fetus reportedly died 30 minutes after arriving at the hospital. Jones is being held at the Dougherty County Jail without bond. Her brother, Rico Riggins, has been granted temporary guardianship of her 1-year-old son.
“At that point we didn’t even know she was pregnant. And so my first real reaction was like, why she keeping it away from us,” Riggins said. “Once she took those pills, from the way I’m understanding it, she was in a world of hurt for a while.” Jones reportedly purchased the drug from an online pharmacy based in Canada. Cytotec (misoprostol) is legally administered at health care facilities in combination with mifepristone to induce medication abortion for women who are nine or fewer weeks pregnant (seven weeks in some states).
Georgia law prohibits abortions after the first trimester (12 weeks) unless performed in a licensed hospital, ambulatory surgical center, or abortion facility. After 20 weeks, they are illegal unless the pregnancy is diagnosed to be nonviable or if an abortion is necessary to protect the life or health of the mother. The law also says health facilities must hand over medical records to law enforcement without need for a warrant. The ACLU Foundation of Georgia challenged the law in 2012 via Lathrop v. Deal, arguing that turning over medical records violates women’s privacy and that the law also forces women to wait until their health deteriorates to seek care. A judge granted an injunction that enjoins the provisions that prevent care before viability and that release medical records with a warrant. That injunction is still in place.
Greg Edwards, the district attorney for Dougherty county, said he has never seen a case like this before, and that Jones will likely appear before a grand jury to allow for a exploration of both state and federal laws.
It’s not the first time a woman has been arrested following fetal death. In April, Purvi Patel, a 33-year-old woman of Indian descent living in Indiana, delivered a fetus that did not survive and was sentenced to 20 years in prison for feticide and neglect of a dependent causing death. It is still unclear if she actually suffered a stillbirth or had an illegal abortion.
*Post has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Kenlissia Jones’ name, per district attorney’s statement. Jones lives in Albany, and Patel was arrested in Indiana.