“It is clear to me that the events leading up to this indictment have taken a toll on Ms. Herrera and her family.”
A District Attorney has dropped murder charges against a 26-year-old Texas woman accused of performing a “self-induced abortion.”
Lizelle Herrera was arrested on Thursday in Rio Grande City, near the U.S.-Mexico border, where she remained in jail on a $500,000 bond.
“Herrera was arrested and served with an indictment on the charge of Murder after Herrera did then and there intentionally and knowingly cause the death of an individual by self-induced abortion,” Starr County Sheriff’s Major Carlos Delgado said in a statement to AP.
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But on Sunday, authorities U-turned and accepted it was not a criminal matter.
“In reviewing applicable Texas law, it is clear that Ms. Herrera cannot and should not be prosecuted for the allegation against her,” 229th Judicial District Attorney Gocha Allen Ramirez wrote in a statement.
The arrest had triggered protests outside the jail in Texas, which has among the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States. While abortion has been legal in the US since the landmark Roe V. Wade case in 1973, many states have local laws that make it as difficult as possible.
In September, Texas introduced its most restrictive law yet, the Heartbeat Act, which bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detectable — as early as six weeks — which could be before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Cases of rape or incest are not exceptions.
Texas also allows private citizens to sue anyone that aids and abets a person having an abortion, trough civil rather than criminal litigation, to the possible tune of $10k — deemed by critics as “bounty hunter law”.
The only person who cannot be sued under this law is the pregnant woman herself — which is what made the initial arrest and indictment so puzzling; the Sheriff’s Office did not initially make clear under what law Herrera was being prosecuted.
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“She miscarried at a hospital and allegedly confided to hospital staff that she had attempted to induce her own abortion and she was reported to the authorities by hospital administration or staff,” said Rickie Gonzalez, founder of La Frontera Fund, which organized the protest. “This arrest is inhumane,” he added.
DA Ramirez defended the arrest, insisting Starr County Sheriff’s Office “did their duty in investigating the incident brought to their attention by the reporting hospital. To ignore the incident would have been a dereliction of their duty,” he said.
“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,” he added. “To ignore this fact would be shortsighted. The issues surrounding this matter are clearly contentious, however based on Texas law and the facts presented, it is not a criminal matter.”
“Going forward, my office will continue to communicate with counsel for Ms. Herrera in order to bring this matter to a close. It is my hope that with the dismissal of this case it is made clear that Ms. Herrera did not commit a criminal act under the laws of the State of Texas,” he reiterated.
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