How Grassroots Activists Forced a Texas District Attorney to Drop Murder Charges for Self-Induced Abortion

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On Thursday, April 7, Texas police within the Rio Grande Valley arrested a girl and charged her with homicide for allegedly self-inducing an abortion final January. The Starr County Sherriff’s Division detained 26-year-old Lizelle Herrera in a jail close to the Texas-Mexico border on a $500,000 bail bond.

Reproductive justice advocates locally organized a protest on the Starr County Jail on Saturday morning and urged folks to name the jail demanding the discharge of Herrera. Calls poured in from throughout the nation. By Saturday afternoon, If/When/How’s Repro Legal Defense Fund paid Herrera’s bail and she or he was launched.

Advocates then urged folks to name the Starr County District Legal professional Gocha Ramirez, demanding he drop the costs. On Sunday, Ramirez issued a press release, stating that the arrest was improper and he would file a petition to drop the costs—which he did on Monday, April 11. Ramirez reportedly apologized to Herrera in a textual content despatched to her lawyer Calixtro Villarreal on Sunday. Ramirez stated she ought to by no means have been charged.

Herrera and her attorneys have declined to talk to the press concerning the case, so most of the particulars about what occurred main as much as her arrest are nonetheless unknown, however reproductive justice advocates from the neighborhood have indicated what might need occurred by describing the boundaries to reproductive healthcare within the Rio Grande Valley.

There is just one abortion clinic in the whole Rio Grande Valley, serving over 3 million folks, so folks usually journey to Mexico to obtain abortion healthcare.

“There’s a single tiny clinic that’s closely policed and attacked by anti-abortion protesters the entire time,” stated Jess Gomez of Frontera Fund.

One lesson discovered is that folks don’t have to reveal that they used abortion tablets as a result of the therapy is the very same as for miscarriage. Rockie Gonzalez of Frontera Fund reported that Herrera advised hospital employees that she had used abortion tablets.

 “A miscarriage and an abortion are indistinguishable to an ER doctor and the care is similar, so there isn’t any purpose to danger divulging greater than is required,” said Dr. April Lockley, medical course of the Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline (M+A Hotline).

There’s a single tiny clinic that’s closely policed and attacked by anti-abortion protesters the entire time. We need to pull folks away from sensationalizing this as some horrible trek to enter Mexico to get this care. No, it’s a part of Sunday brunch to go to the pharmacy and get the antibiotics you can purchase over-the-counter there. That’s what we do as a result of disgrace on Texas, we don’t have correct healthcare.

Jess Gomez, Frontera Fund

Current restrictions on abortion in Texas made the scenario even worse. In September of 2021, Texas enacted S.B. 8 banning abortion at six weeks and, in December, enacted S.B. 4 banning treatment abortion after seven weeks, enforceable by felony penalties. Some sources reported that Herrera obtained abortion tablets in Mexico.

“Lots of people in our neighborhood have all the time gone to Mexico to hunt healthcare,” stated Zaena Zamora of Frontera Fund. “A part of that healthcare contains abortion care and taking treatment to finish being pregnant as a result of, even earlier than S.B. 8, entry to abortion was very restricted and troublesome to get within the Valley. Abortion prices had been very costly within the Valley, beginning at $800.”

“It’s culturally regular within the Rio Grande Valley to get your healthcare in Mexico,” stated Gomez. “Rising up right here, we didn’t go to American dentists or docs. What we do is we go to Mexico as a result of it’s fast, it’s low cost and it’s good healthcare. Now we have all grown up that method. It’s very regular. So when folks begin sensationalizing this prefer it’s some scandalous factor—no, we go have lunch in Mexico on Sundays. That’s what we do. We need to pull folks away from sensationalizing this as some horrible trek to enter Mexico to get this care. No, it’s a part of Sunday brunch to go to the pharmacy and get the antibiotics you can purchase over-the-counter there. That’s what we do as a result of disgrace on Texas, we don’t have correct healthcare.”

Even earlier than S.B. 8, entry to abortion was very restricted and troublesome to get within the Valley. Abortion prices had been very costly within the Valley, beginning at $800.

Zaena Zamora, Frontera Fund

When neighborhood activists heard about Herrera’s arrest on Friday afternoon, they instantly started organizing to assist her. Members of Frontera Fund met with activists from South Texans Reproductive Justice and the Nationwide Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice to arrange a protest on the jail for Saturday.

Cathy Torres, organizing supervisor of the Frontera Fund described what occurred: “In order that night time, we bought all the pieces collectively—provides, supplies—and bought the phrase out to our socials and knowledgeable the higher neighborhood what was happening. Folks wanted to know as a result of this was critical. The following morning, we bought to Starr County Jail at 9 a.m. and made some noise to let Lizelle know that we had been there for her and supported her. We had been standing along with her. We had been additionally letting the world know that this might occur to anyone. We wanted to make it possible for it was said that somebody was criminalized for his or her being pregnant final result and to make it possible for this doesn’t occur to anyone else.”

Gomez emphasised the significance of abortion funds to combatting the criminalization of pregnant ladies. “Abortion funds are actually embedded of their neighborhood and due to the ties to our neighborhood, we had been on the entrance traces. We had been one of many first to know,” stated Gomez. “You hear quite a bit about huge nationwide reproductive organizations they usually do great work, however they’re not on the bottom and embedded locally the way in which that abortion funds are, which is why it’s so vital to assist your native abortion funds and to assist Fonterra Fund right here on this militarized border neighborhood.”

On Wednesday, April 13, Frontera Fund issued a press launch declaring their willpower to guard reproductive rights within the Rio Grande Valley:

“Now we have demonstrated to authorities that we are able to successfully arrange in opposition to unjust persecution based mostly on being pregnant outcomes and we are going to proceed to take action. We’re rigorously weighing our choices and coordinating technique for what’s to return.

“Within the aftermath of  S.B. 8 in Texas, the extremely anticipated outcomes from the Supreme Court docket on the Dobbs v. Jackson case which might overturn Roe v. Wade, and the rising worry of sharing probably life-saving data with healthcare professionals, we are going to combat to make sure that our households within the Rio Grande Valley and throughout Texas are protected against being criminally prosecuted for his or her being pregnant outcomes.”

To proceed this vital work, Frontera Fund hosted a livestream fundraiser Wednesday night time with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and 9 musical visitors to assist their work “combating the criminalization of being pregnant outcomes and abortion, defending our communities from the form of atrocity skilled by Lizelle Herrera, and guaranteeing secure entry to abortion care.”

Sign and share Ms.’s relaunched “We Have Had Abortions” petition—whether or not you your self have had an abortion, or just stand in solidarity with those that have—to let the Supreme Court docket, Congress and the White Home know: We is not going to quit the best to secure, authorized, accessible abortion.

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