Police in south Texas arrested and charged a woman with murder for allegedly performing a “self-induced” abortion.
Lizelle Herrera, 26, remains in custody with bond set at $500,000 at the Starr County Detention Center. She was arrested and served with an indictment on 7 April for “intentionally and knowingly [causing] the death of an individual by self-induced abortion,” according to the Starr County Sheriff’s Office. Her arrest of her was first reported by TheMonitorNews in Texas.
Rio Grande Valley-based abortion care group La Frontera Fund organized a protest outside the jail on 9 April demanding her release.
The organization’s founder and chair Rockie Gonzalez told Texas Public Radio that “what is alleged is that she was in the hospital and had a miscarriage and divulged some information to hospital staff, who then reported her to the police.”
“This is a developing story and we don’t yet know all the details surrounding this tragic event, what we do know is that criminalizing pregnant people’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 a parent,” she said.
A charge of murder marks an extreme advancement of anti-abortion efforts in Texas following passage of a state law outlawing abortion care at six weeks of pregnancy, before most women know they are pregnant, while relying on private parties for its enforcement through civil suits against people who “aid and abet” women who seek an abortion.
It is unclear under which statute Ms Herrera has been charged. Under the Texas law, employees of the state are prohibited from enforcing it, and pregnant women seeking an abortion cannot be prosecuted.
Spanish-language news network Telemundo reported that the Starr County District Attorney’s office presented the case to a grand jury, which decided to indict Ms Herrerra. The district attorney is expected to release more information about the case on Monday.
Her arrest follows a wave of anti-abortion legislation from Republican state lawmakers across the US, emboldened by the US Supreme Court’s anticipated ruling in a case that could determine the fate of healthcare protections for women if the decades-old precedent from the ruling in Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Legal organization National Advocates for Pregnant Women said her “arrest proves the true intent of those who are fighting to overturn gnaws: the surveillance, control, and criminalization of pregnant people.”
“It is a tragedy, and just the tip of the iceberg,” the group added. “No case in Texas has ever permitted the use of the state’s murder law to address abortion or pregnancy loss. This is unconstitutional.”
Last month, Planned Parenthood found that abortion providers in Oklahoma – which sits north of Texas – reported a 2,500 per cent increase in abortion patients with Texas addresses compared to the previous year.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, meanwhile, has signed a similar six-week abortion ban into law, and is poised to sign another measure effectively making all abortions in the state illegal.
That measure would punish any Oklahoman who performs an abortion with a 10-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $100,000.
On 8 April, a judge in Idaho temporarily blocked that state’s law banning abortion at six weeks.