© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Protesters stand outside the Starr County Jail after Lizelle Herrerra, 26, was charged with murder for allegedly performing what authorities called a “self-induced abortion”, in Rio Grande City, Texas, U.S. April 9, 2022. REUTERS/Jason Garza
By Daniel Trotta
(Reuters) – A local prosecutor in Texas will dismiss criminal charges against a 26-year-old woman who was arrested for a self-induced abortion in a case that had drawn national scrutiny and led abortion rights activists to demonstrate on her behalf.
Following a grand jury indictment of her on March 30, Lizelle Herrera was arrested on Thursday by the Starr County Sheriff’s Office, according to Valley Central.com, which cited a spokesperson who said she “intentionally and knowingly caused the death of an individual by self-induced abortion.”
Starr County District Attorney Gocha Allen Ramirez said on Sunday his office would file a motion to dismiss charges against her on Monday.
“In reviewing applicable Texas law, it is clear that Ms. Herrera cannot and should not be prosecuted for the allegation against her,” Ramirez said in a statement.
Neither the district attorney nor the sheriff’s department responded to queries about when she would be released.
Starr County is on the Mexican border in the Rio Grande Valley region in the southern tip of Texas.
Ramirez said sheriff’s deputies were right to arrest her as “to ignore the incident would have been a dereliction of their duty.” But he also said district attorneys have prosecutorial discretion and that his oath is “to do justice.”
“Following that oath, the only correct outcome to this matter is to immediately dismiss the indictment against Ms. Herrera,” the prosecutor said.
The case also reignited controversy over Texas’s strict abortion law that was largely upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in December. Known as Senate Bill 8, the law bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant, and does not exempt women who are impregnated by rape.
The Starr County prosecutor did not comment on what specific legal standard he applied and instead pointed to how the indictment has “taken a toll” on Herrera and her family.
“The issues surrounding this matter are clearly contentious, however based on Texas law and the facts presented, it is not a criminal matter,” Ramirez said.
A small group of protesters had gathered outside the sheriff’s office on Saturday, led by La Frontera Fund, an abortion assistance group.
“She miscarried at a hospital and allegedly confided to hospital staff that she had attempted to induce her own abortion and she was reported to the authorities by hospital administration or staff,” Rickie Gonzalez, the group’s founder, said on Saturday.