DALLAS (AP) – A Texas judge on Monday formally dismissed a murder charge against a 26-year-old woman over a self-induced abortion, not quelling outrage or questions about the case, in which prosecutors Why brought it to a grand jury.
A woman who terminates her pregnancy cannot be charged with a crime under Texas law. Officials in rural Starr County along the US-Mexico border have not released details about why they decided to prosecute Liselle Herrera after being contacted by the hospital.
“There should have been no reason to report. There should have been no reason for a criminal investigation to happen,” said Farah Diaz-Tello, senior counsel and legal director of If/When/How: Advocates for Reproductive Justice.
News of Herrera’s arrest on Thursday raised alarm for abortion rights advocates, and prompted people to gather to protest outside the prison, where she is being held on $500,00 bond. Her March 30 indictment alleged that she “deliberately and knowingly” caused the death of “a person … by a self-induced abortion” in early January.
Officials did not say what Herrera allegedly did, and it was unclear whether she was charged with aborting herself or of aiding in someone else’s self-induced abortion.
An attorney for Herrera, who was released from prison Saturday after posting bond, did not immediately return a call from the Associated Press.
Starr County District Attorney Gocha Alan Ramirez said in a statement on Sunday that he would file a motion to have the charge dismissed, saying “It is clear that Ms. Herrera cannot and will not be prosecuted for the charges against her.” should be prosecuted.”
But he did not say why the case was presented before a grand jury, nor did he respond to an email from the AP on Monday asking for additional information. A woman answering the phone in his office said Sunday’s statement was “the only thing he was going to say on the subject” and hung up the phone before identifying herself.
“These were choices that didn’t need to be made because losing a pregnancy or terminating a pregnancy or self-managing an abortion is not a crime in the state of Texas,” Diaz-Tello said. “There is no requirement that health care providers hand over this information to anyone, much less to law enforcement.”
Texas last year passed a law known as Senate Bill 8, or SB8, which bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. The law applies to private citizens who can sue doctors or anyone who helps a woman get an abortion.
Another new Texas law prohibits doctors and clinics from prescribing abortion-inducing drugs after seven weeks and prohibits the delivery of pills by mail.
Diaz-Tello said neither law authorizes any action against a woman who terminates her pregnancy.
“The problem is that when you have this heightened state of doubt and fear and the chilling effect it all creates, it is more likely that health care providers are going to err on the side of reporting – err. But on the side of violating your patient’s privacy and enforcing the law,” Diaz-Tello said.
Diaz-Tello said the actions taken by the hospital and law enforcement in this case could scare women into seeking health care after an abortion.
Joanna Grossman, a professor at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law in Dallas, said SB8 “could play a lot of roles here indirectly.” For one, there has been an increase in women going online to get abortion pills since SB8, she said.
Furthermore, she said, the law sends a message that “there is just one war on abortion.”
“It certainly changes access, but I think it changes the whole context in which people evaluate abortion care,” Grossman said.