Texas news: Lizelle Herrera murder charges over alleged self-induced abortion in Rio Grande City dropped

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RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas (KTRK) — After charging a woman with murder for a self-induced abortion, forced her to spend three days in jail and attracting national attention, Starr County officials announced on Sunday that they were heading off course. would change and dismiss the case. case.

The above video is from an earlier report.

Lizelle Herrera was arrested Thursday and held in prison on $500,000 bail, court records show. She was released on bail on Saturday, according to prison records and a local abortion fund† The prosecutor had brought the possible murder charge before a grand jury last month, leading to her indictment and arrest, before his announcement on Sunday.

“In reviewing applicable Texas law, it is clear that Ms. Herrera cannot and should not be prosecuted for the charges against her,” Gocha Allen Ramirez, the Starr County district attorney, said in a press release.

SEE ORIGINAL REPORT: Woman charged with murder in Texas after self-induced abortion

Few details about the case have been made public, including how the abortion was performed and how far along the pregnancy had been. Ramirez’s press release said a hospital reported the abortion to the Starr County Sheriff’s Department in January, prompting the criminal investigation and murder charge.

It is also unclear under what statute Herrera was charged. Texas law exempts a pregnant person from a charge of murder or a lesser charge of manslaughter for an abortion. The pregnant person is also typically barred from lower criminal charges if abortion laws are violated, as state laws are instead directed at the provider.

“For pregnant people, the rule in the state of Texas since the inception of the criminalization of abortion has essentially always been that the pregnant person cannot be prosecuted,” said Elizabeth Sepper, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

Herrera’s lawyer, Calixtro Villarreal, declined to comment on the case on Sunday.

RELATED: Texas Now Bans Medical Abortions After 7 Weeks Of Pregnancy

Herrera’s arrest, first reported by The Monitor in McAllen, quickly became national news, in part because Texas lawmakers recently passed a law banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. But that law, which came into effect in September, has no criminal consequences. Instead, enforcement of the law can only be done by private individuals who can sue abortion providers and anyone involved in aiding or encouraging an abortion after fetal heart activity is detected.

Last year, Texas also narrowed the period within which doctors are allowed to give abortion-inducing drugs to patients from 10 weeks to seven weeks of pregnancy and banned sending such drugs. But again, pregnant patients are not subject to criminal enforcement under the new law under the law. Accused providers would face potential lower felony charges, carrying a maximum sentence of two years in state prison.
Dana Sussman of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women said that because of recent Texas anti-abortion laws, Herrera’s arrest was unconstitutional but “somewhat expected.”

“What the laws in Texas and elsewhere claim to do is criminalize the provision of certain types of care,” she told The Texas Tribune on Friday. “But what we know is the reality of our cases, and from what we’ve seen in the past and what we’re seeing now is that the people who actually went through a pregnancy will also face criminalization.”

RELATED: Oklahoma State House Passes Bill to Make Abortion Illegal

Sepper, who specializes in gender and health law, said there have been cases in other states of abortion prosecutors seeking to expand the criminalization of people who have had abortions, for instance for child neglect. She said it seemed like Starr County officials knew “what message this might send to other people who could become pregnant in the area, telling them they could face criminal penalties.”

Despite Ramirez originally filing a murder charge, he said Sunday he hoped his resignation will “make it clear that Ms. Herrera has not committed a criminal offense under the laws of the state of Texas.”

“While Ms Herrera will not be prosecuted for this incident with this resignation, it is clear to me that the events leading up to this charge have taken a toll on Ms Herrera and her family,” he said.

Jason Beeferman contributed to this report.

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