Texas DA Fights Murder Count in Self-Induced Abortion Case

Woman is jailed, but district attorney says he'll go to a judge Monday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 10, 2022 5:30 AM CDT
Updated Apr 10, 2022 2:45 PM CDT
Texas Woman Faces Murder Charge After Abortion
In this October 2021 photo, protesters attend the Women's March ATX rally at the Texas State Capitol in Austin.   (AP Photo/Stephen Spillman, File)

Update: This story has been updated with the district attorney's announcement.
A Texas district attorney said Sunday he will ask a judge to dismiss a murder charge against a woman over a self-induced abortion. Lizelle Herrera, 26, was indicted March 30 by a grand jury, accused of causing the death of a fetus or embryo, the AP reports. District Attorney Gocha Allen Ramirez announced that his office will try to have the charge thrown out on Monday. "In reviewing this case, it is clear that Ms. Herrera cannot and should not be prosecuted for the allegation against her," Ramirez said in a statement.

Herrera was arrested Thursday and remained jailed as of Saturday on a $500,000 bond in the Starr County jail in Rio Grande City, on the US-Mexico border, said sheriff's Maj. Carlos Delgado. He said no other information will be released until at least Monday because the case remains under investigation, per the AP. Texas has the most restrictive abortion laws in the US. But state law exempts Herrera from a criminal homicide charge for aborting her own pregnancy, University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck told the AP.

“(Homicide) doesn’t apply to the murder of an unborn child if the conduct charged is ‘conduct committed by the mother of the unborn child,’” Vladeck said. A 2021 state law that bans abortions in Texas for women who are as early as six weeks pregnant has sharply curtailed the number of abortions in the state. The law leaves enforcement to private citizens who can sue doctors or anyone who helps a woman get an abortion. The woman receiving the abortion is exempted from the law.

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However, some states still have laws that criminalize self-induced abortions, "and there have been a handful of prosecutions here and there over the years," Vladeck said. “It is murder in Texas to take steps that terminate a fetus, but when a medical provider does it, it can’t be prosecuted" due to Supreme Court rulings upholding the constitutionality of abortion, Vladeck said. Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, also noted the state law exemption. “What’s a little mysterious in this case is, what crime has this woman been charged with?" Paltrow said. “There is no statute in Texas that, even on its face, authorizes the arrest of a woman for a self-managed abortion.”

(More abortion stories.)

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