A Texas judge dismissed a murder charge Monday against a woman who was arrested in “the death of an individual by self-induced abortion,” according to court documents.
The court ruling came after the local district attorney filed a motion earlier Monday to dismiss the murder charge, citing insufficient evidence.
The Starr County Sheriff’s Office arrested Lizelle Herrera, 26, on Thursday, outraging abortion rights advocates.
“In reviewing applicable Texas law, it is clear that Ms. Herrera cannot and should not be prosecuted for the allegation against her,” County District Attorney Gocha Allen Ramirez wrote in a news release Sunday.
It is unclear whether Herrera was accused of having a self-induced abortion or whether she helped someone else get an abortion, and the sheriff’s office did not say under which law Herrera was charged.
In a statement to The Associated Press, the sheriff’s office wrote that Herrera was charged after “intentionally and knowingly causing the death of an individual by a self-induced abortion.”
In the Sunday statement, Ramirez said the Starr County Sheriff’s Office “did their duty” in investigating the incident, which was brought to the attention of authorities by a hospital in the area.
“Although with this dismissal Ms. Herrera will not face prosecution for this incident, it is clear to me that the events leading up to this indictment have taken a toll on Ms. Herrera and her family,” he wrote. “The issues surrounding this matter are clearly contentious, however based on Texas Law and the facts presented, it is not a criminal matter.”
Texas Senate Bill 8 was enacted in September, banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy in a state that has the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. The law does not target pregnant people themselves for prosecution and instead is enforceable by private parties who may sue abortion providers who “aid and abet” women seeking abortions.
Herrera was held in the Starr County Jail in Rio Grande City on $500,000 bail until she was released after posting bond and secured legal counsel Saturday evening, according to La Frontera Fund, which is raising money on behalf of Herrera.
A small group of activists demonstrated Saturday outside the jail where she was held.
Herrera’s case draws attention to the role class plays in Texas’ abortion restrictions, according to Domingo Garcia, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
“Texas law exempts from murder charges, termination of a fetus by the pregnant woman herself,” Garcia wrote in a LULAC news release Sunday. “However, this public shaming and criminal persecution of a Latina under the guise of the law, highlights the very desperate situation some women are facing in Texas if they cannot access legal abortion services because they are unable to afford the travel costs.
“The injustice is that for women who can pay, their procedure remains private and out of the public eye. For those women who are poor, their difficult decision is turned into a public and even criminal spectacle.”
Contributing: Chris Kenning and Christine Fernando, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
Contact News Now Reporter Cady Stanton at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @cady_stanton.