Texas DA To Dismiss Murder Charge Against Woman Accused Of ‘Self-Induced Abortion’

A Texas district attorney said Sunday that he has moved to dismiss a murder charge against a woman who authorities allege performed a “self-induced abortion.”

Starr County District Attorney Gocha Allen Ramirez released a statement saying that 26-year-old Lizelle Herrera “cannot and should not be prosecuted for the allegation against her.”

Law enforcement arrested Herrera in Rio Grande City on Thursday and held her for two nights in jail. A grand jury had indicted her on March 30 for murder for “intentionally and knowingly [causing] the death of an individual by self-induced abortion.”

She was released on $500,000 bond Saturday night after the abortion rights advocacy group La Frontera Fund posted her bail. Ramirez said the case stemmed from a report made to police by a local hospital in January.

“In reviewing this case, it is clear that the Starr County Sheriff’s Department did their duty in investigating the incident brought to their attention by the reporting hospital,” Ramirez said in his statement. “To ignore the incident would have been a dereliction of their duty.”

However, “prosecutorial discretion rests with the District Attorney’s office, and in the State of Texas a prosecutor’s oath is to do justice,” his statement continued. “Following that oath, the only correct outcome to this matter is to immediately dismiss the indictment against Ms. Herrera.”

Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, told Texas Public Radio that a murder charge against Herrera did not make sense based on the case’s murky information.

“The Texas murder statute does apply to the killing of an unborn fetus, but it specifically exempts cases where the person who terminated the fetus is the pregnant woman,” he said.

The arrest occurred amid an ongoing, aggressive attack on abortion rights in Texas and other states. Texas drew swift backlash in September for passing SB8 , a law criminalizing abortion as early as six weeks into the pregnancy and deputizing private citizens to sue anyone who either provides an abortion or assists in accessing the procedure.

A study last month by the University of Texas at Austin’s Policy Evaluation Project found that between September and December, nearly 1,400 Texans were traveling to neighboring states each month for abortions. A separate study in the Journal of the American Medical Association by a University of Texas researcher found a surge in the number of Texans requesting abortion pills from the nonprofit Aid Access.

“Although with this dismissal Ms. Herrera will not face prosecution for this incident, it is clear to me that the events leading up to this indictment have taken a toll on Ms. Herrera and her family. To ignore this fact would be shortsighted,” Ramirez said in his statement. “The issues surrounding this matter are clearly contentious, however based on Texas law and the facts presented, it is not a criminal matter.”

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