Texas Woman Charged with Murder for Having Abortion

A 26-year-old Texas woman was finally released from jail Saturday after she was arrested and charged with murder for what authorities called a “self-induced abortion.”

Lizelle Herrera was arrested Thursday and held two nights in jail after officials said she “intentionally and knowingly cause[d] the death of an individual by self-induced abortion,” according to a spokesperson for the Starr County Sheriff’s Office.

No details about the “abortion” or fetus were provided.

Herrera was released on bail, which was set at $500,000, and has retained legal counsel, according to a statement from La Frontera Fund, an abortion assistance fund based in the Rio Grande Valley, which organized a protest Saturday morning outside the Starr County Jail in Rio Grande City.

Rockie Gonzalez, founder and board chair of Frontera, called the arrest “inhumane.”

“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,” Gonzalez said Friday, Texas Public Radio reported.

University of Texas Law Professor Stephen Vladeck told The Associated Press that Texas law exempts Herrera from a homicide charge for aborting her own pregnancy, so it’s difficult to understand how she could be charged with murder for a self-induced abortion.

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.

The arrest represented a further chilling crackdown on women in Texas and a disturbing challenge to the inviolability of an individual’s own body.

It follows last year’s passage of the harshest reproductive rights law in the nation, which allows abortions for only a few weeks after pregnancy, before the detection of an embryo’s so-called “heartbeat” — actually a cluster of cells that emit electrical signals. That’s before most people typically even know they’re pregnant.

The law, which has inspired several copycat bills in other states, provides no exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. It allows private citizens to sue anyone who performs an abortion or “aids and abets” a procedure. That includes the families or friends of rapists who impregnate a woman against her will.

The law has forced thousands of women to travel out of Texas to obtain abortions — if they can afford to do so.

A study last month at the University of Texas at Austin’s Policy Evaluation Project found that from last September to December, nearly 1,400 Texans each month were traveling to neighboring states for abortions.

Another study in the Journal of the American Medical Association by a University of Texas researcher found a surge in the number of Texans requesting abortion pills from the overseas nonprofit Aid Access.

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