Charges against a Texas woman who was arrested for murder after allegedly terminating her own pregnancy were dropped by the local district attorney on Sunday.
Lizelle Herrera, 26, was arrested Thursday after police alleged she violated the state’s restrictive new abortion law by ‘knowingly causing the death of an individual by voluntary abortion,’ they said. the cops.
But Starr County District Attorney Gocha Allen Ramirez wrote in a statement Sunday that he was dismissing the charges “immediately,” adding that the incident was “not a criminal matter.”
“It is clear to me that the events leading up to this indictment have taken their toll on Ms. Herrera and her family,” Ramirez wrote. “To ignore this fact would be short-sighted.”
“The issues surrounding this case are clearly contentious, but based on Texas law and the facts presented, this is not a criminal case.”
The recently passed Texas Heartbeat Act, under which Herrera was initially arrested and charged, prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected – usually around six weeks, long before most women know they are pregnant – without exception for rape or incest.
The law’s unusual enforcement measures were intended to protect her from legal challenges – anyone can sue anyone who helps a woman get an abortion, other than the woman herself. Such a claimant could be entitled to up to $10,000.
Lizelle Herrera, 26, was arrested on Thursday after “intentionally and knowingly causing the death of an individual by voluntary abortion”
Herrera was being held in Starr County Jail on $500,000 bond while authorities investigate details surrounding her abortion
The Frontera Fund, a Texas-based abortion relief fund, staged a protest outside the Starr County Jail on Saturday morning to demand Herrera’s release.
“This arrest is inhuman. We demand the immediate release of Lizelle Herrera,’ Rockie Gonzalez, Founder and Chair of the Board of Frontera Fund, told KSTX. “What is alleged is that she was in hospital and had a miscarriage and leaked information to hospital staff, who then reported her to the police.”
The organization, which acknowledged at the time that details surrounding Herrera’s arrest were still preliminary, also criticized the recently passed Texas Heartbeat Act.
‘This is a developing story and we don’t yet know all the details surrounding this tragic event, what we do know is that the criminalization of pregnant women’s choices or pregnancy outcomes, which the state of Texas has done, takes away people’s autonomy over their own bodies, and leaves them with no safe options when they choose not to become parents,” Gonzalez explained.
The activist also argued that the bill, which went into effect Sept. 1, 2021, is the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban, banning the procedure before many women even know they are there. are pregnant. It also allows private citizens to sue anyone who performs or “aids and abets” an abortion.
“We want people to know that this type of legislation affects low-income people in communities of color the most when state lawmakers place restrictions on our reproductive rights,” Gonzalez told the radio station.
The Texas Heartbeat Act was criticized by pro-choice groups after it was signed into law in September. Protesters are pictured outside the US Supreme Court last October
Despite criticism, none of the legal challenges to overturn the law have succeeded
The bill was criticized by pro-choice groups after it was signed into law in September.
However, none of the legal challenges seeking to overturn the law have been successful, including a case brought to the United States Supreme Court in December 2021 and the Texas Supreme Court last month.
The Texas law contradicts landmark U.S. Supreme Court rulings that prevent a state from banning abortion in early pregnancy, but it was written in a way that essentially thwarted those precedents. .
With few options left, Texas abortion providers acknowledged the law would likely remain on the books for the foreseeable future.
Abortions in Texas fell about 60% in September 2021, following the nation’s most restrictive ban on the procedure
Data released by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in February found that statewide abortion fell 60% in the first month under the new law.
The nearly 2,200 abortions reported by Texas providers in September came after a new law went into effect banning the procedure once heart activity is detected, usually around six weeks gestation, and without exception if rape or incest.
As of August, there had been more than 5,400 abortions statewide, and the number of abortions was consistently above 4,250 in the first seven months of 2021. Texas state health officials said more data would be released on a monthly basis.
Planned Parenthood said at the time the numbers were “the very beginning of the devastating impact” of the law, as they found “a 1,082% increase in the number of patients with Texas ZIP codes seeking abortions. compared to September 2019 and 2020”.
“It is unconscionable that thousands of Texans continue to be forced to travel hundreds of miles out of state to Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado and other more distant states to access their basic human rights. to safe and legal abortion,” the organization said.
The law has also inspired several copycat bills in other states.
The Oklahoma House voted 70 to 14 to pass a bill that would make abortion in the state a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Protesters gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday to denounce the bill
How Texas’ Heartbeat Abortion Law Rejected a Host of Similar State Laws
The Texas Heartbeat Act, which was signed into law in September 2021, prohibits abortions after detection of embryonic or fetal heart activity, which typically occurs after about six weeks of pregnancy.
The law had a fairly quick and easy process to pass in this deeply conservative state. It was introduced in the state Senate and House of Representatives on March 11, 2021, and was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott several months later on May 19.
The law itself went into effect soon after, on September 1, with the Supreme Court ultimately rejecting a pre-emptive request for emergency assistance from Texas abortion providers.
It has since endured several legal and critical challenges.
President Joe Biden called it “extreme” and said it “flagrantly violates constitutional law established under Roe v. Wade.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren argued it was time to “step up and codify Roe into federal law,” in response to the state’s “heartbeat” abortion ban.
The law also inspired several other states to follow suit with similar legislation.
Last month, Idaho became the first state to pass legislation inspired by Texas law banning abortions after about six weeks.
However, the Idaho Supreme Court temporarily blocked the law on Friday, meaning it will not go into effect on April 22 as scheduled.
The Idaho bill also allowed the father, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles of an “unborn child” to each sue an abortion provider for a minimum of $20,000. $ in damages within four years of the abortion. Rapists cannot sue under the law, but relatives of a rapist can.
Besides Idaho, eleven other states have proposed heartbeat bills since 2018; such bills have been passed, including bills in Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Texas, most of which are in part or entirely in the so-called Bible Belt whose population leans strongly against abortion.
Similarly, the Oklahoma House gave final legislative approval on Tuesday to a bill that would make abortion a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
With little discussion and no debate, the Republican-controlled House voted 70 to 14 to send the bill to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has previously said he would sign any anti-abortion bill that comes his way.
If Stitt signs the legislation and is not blocked by the courts, the bill would go into effect when the state legislature adjourns this summer.
The bill, which passed the Senate last year, makes an exception only for an abortion performed to save the mother’s life, said GOP state Rep. Jim Olsen of Roland, who sponsored the bill. There is no exception for victims of rape or incest.
Under the bill, a doctor or person convicted of performing an abortion faces up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
“The penalties are for the doctor, not the woman,” Olsen said.
The future of Oklahoma’s bill will most likely hinge on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision expected this summer regarding Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban that could overturn the Roe v. Wade.