A 26-year-old South Texas woman, Lizelle Herrera, was arrested and charged with murder on Thursday for allegedly self-managing her own abortion. Herrera is from Starr County in the Rio Grande Valley, along the border with Mexico.
The Starr County Sheriff’s office told Jezebel that Herrera is alleged to have “intentionally and knowingly cause[d] the death of an individual by self-induced abortion.” The Sheriff’s office arrested Herrera and served her with an indictment on murder charges, and she was being held on $500,000 bond, they said. Herrera was released on bail Saturday evening and has secured legal counsel, according to Frontera Fund, which funds abortions and provides practical support to people needing them in the Rio Grande Valley.
“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,” said Rockie Gonzalez, Frontera Fund founder and board chair.
Telemundo reported that the Starr County District Attorney’s office presented the case to a grand jury which decided to indict Herrera. The Sheriff’s office said the District Attorney plans to release more information regarding the case on Monday. Jezebel contacted the District Attorney’s office and hasn’t yet heard back.
While Texas does have a six-week abortion ban in effect, it’s unclear exactly what law Herrera is being charged under, as that notorious measure is only enforced by civil lawsuits, and pregnant people cannot be sued under the law.
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“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,” Frontera Fund’s Gonzalez said in a statement. “We stand in solidarity with you Lizelle, if you are reading this, and we will not stand down until you are free.”
Frontera Fund and South Texas for Reproductive Justice held a protest outside the Starr County jail on Saturday morning to demand Herrera’s release. They also urged supporters to call the jail and said that it had disconnected its phones.
The legal group National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) wrote on Twitter: “This arrest proves the true intent of those who are fighting to overturn Roe: the surveillance, control, and criminalization of pregnant people. It is a tragedy, and just the tip of the iceberg.” NAPW added: “Years ago, we successfully fought against arrests of pregnant people under the state’s feticide law. No case in Texas has ever permitted the use of the state’s murder law to address abortion or pregnancy loss. This is unconstitutional.”
Herrera would not be the first person to be arrested for her pregnancy outcomes, or specifically for self-managing an abortion, and she will not be the last. An Indiana woman was charged with murder in 2011 after she attempted suicide, and her fetus later died. A different Indiana woman was charged with feticide in 2014 after ordering abortion pills online. A Tennessee woman was arrested for attempted murder in 2015 after trying to end her pregnancy with a coat hanger. And, just last year, an Oklahoma woman was sentenced to four years for manslaughter after she experienced a miscarriage in her second trimester.
These are high-profile cases from while Roe v. Wade was technically the law of the land—though abortion has for decades been inaccessible for low-income people—and there will almost certainly be more after the Supreme Court further guts or fully overturns Roe by the end of June.
If you or someone you know needs assistance self-managing a miscarriage or abortion, you can call the Miscarriage + Abortion Hotline at (833) 246-2632 for confidential medical support, or the Repro Legal Helpline at (844) 868-2812 for confidential legal information and advice.
This is a developing story and will be updated.