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One night in May 2015, Kenlissia Jones was driving with her cousin and her 19-month-old son to pick up her godsister, who had had car trouble and was waiting on the side of a road in Putney, Georgia. Before Jones arrived, an officer pulled her over. She had failed, he said, to dim her headlights as she approached his car. While Jones’s godsister watched from down the road, he arrested her for driving on a suspended license. The cousin took Jones’s son; Jones spent the night in jail.
At the time, Jones was pregnant with her third child. She had been looking for work and getting turned down, and she wondered if employers were put off because they could see she was expecting. She was 22 years old, Black, poor, and on Medicaid. She knew she’d need money for fines and court fees; she knew that if she wanted to improve her chances of probation, she’d need a job. She was depressed, and “under stress to provide for herself and children,” according to a civil suit she filed later. “Ms. Jones considered her serious situation,” the filing continued, “and sought solutions.”
From an online pharmacy she ordered misoprostol, a medication that induces labor and is commonly used for self-managed abortion. Nearly two weeks after she was pulled over, around 11:30 at night, she took several pills. A few hours later, she went to the hospital, where she told hospital staff that she hadn’t felt the baby move for a half hour. To a nurse, who recorded her as being at least 23 weeks pregnant, she explained that she had taken misoprostol. The hospital discharged her.