Days after a 26-year-old woman was arrested in the state of Texas in connection to a “self-performed abortion,” a county district attorney announced he is moving to dismiss the case.
Gocha Allen Ramirez, the district attorney for Starr County, located near the border with Mexico, said in a statement that his office on Monday will file a motion to dismiss the allegations against the woman, stating she “cannot and should not be prosecuted for the allegation against her.”
Much is unknown about the charge that was filed against the resident of Texas, a state that has imposed sweeping restrictions to access to the medical procedure though they do not permit for the pregnant person whom an abortion is performed to be charged with murder.
In September, the state enacted a controversial law that bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy by arming the public with the ability to sue medical practitioners who perform the medical procedure for thousands of dollars in civil court, while exempting the pregnant person from consequences.
That same month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill that makes it a felony for a person to provide abortion-inducing drugs to a woman after 49 days into their pregnancy. The law explicitly states “a pregnant woman on whom a drug-induced abortion is attempted, induced or performed … is not criminally liable for the violation.”
The woman was arrested and charged late last week by the Starr County Sheriff’s Office after it was informed by a local hospital she intentionally caused “the death of an individual by self-induced abortion.”
Frontera Fund, an abortion fund for the Rio Grande Valley, said the woman had been released on bail Sunday and had secured legal counsel.
Her arrest sparked protests outside of the Starr County Jail over the weekend, according to the fund, which said the abortion in question occurred in January.
“It should not have taken national attention for these charges to be dismissed,” the fund said in a statement on Sunday.
Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, tweeted that the case looks like prosecutors just “forgot” the murder statute exempts pregnant woman who terminate their pregnancy from its scope.
“One one hand it would be a relief if this was just an overreaction by a misinformed local prosecutor vs. something more coordinated,” he said. “On the other, it’s a sobering reminder of both the power of prosecutors and the unavailability in TX of legal abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.”
The district attorney said in his statement that the Starr County Sheriff’s Office was doing its job by investigating the local hospital’s report and that “[t]o ignore the incident would have been a dereliction of duty.”
He added, however, that while the woman will no longer be facing charges, “it is clear to me that the events leading up to this indictment have taken a toll” on the woman.
“It is my hope that with the dismissal of this case it is made clear that [the woman] did not commit a criminal act under the laws of the State of Texas,” he said.
National Advocates for Pregnant Women celebrated the dropping of the indictment via Twitter, calling it a “lawless and inhumane case.”
“We are so grateful to the TX organizers who made this happen,” it said. “Unfortunately, cases like this are happening with increasing regularity. We are here to ensure that no one faces criminalization because of pregnancy.”
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