Frontera Fund, an abortion fund that helped free Lizelle Herrera in Starr County, held a press conference on Wednesday promising a statewide effort and potential legal action against authorities that criminalize the outcome of a pregnancy.
Herrera, 26, was arrested and charged with murder over a self-induced abortion on Thursday and released after Frontera Fund and two other abortion justice groups, South Texans for Reproductive Justice and the Latina Institute, helped her post bail on Saturday.
The charges against her and the case, of which few details have been released, have been dropped and dismissed.
Frontera Fund Founder and Board Chair Rockie Gonzalez said that what happened in Starr County was an attempt to control and scare people seeking abortion care.
“The arrest and charge for murder of a woman in our community has showed us just how emboldened the authroties in the anti-abortion movement are,” Gonzalez said. “They’ve been empowered by local legislations across the state, SB 8 and SB 4, and testing to see how far they can take it.”
Senate Bill 8 allows private citizens in Texas to sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. The law has virtually ended most in-clininc abortions and forced many seeking abortion care to flee the state. It has also dramatically increased the use abortion pills, which under Senate Bill 4, cannot be mailed or delivered, nor prescribed after seven weeks of pregnancy.
It’s not clear what effect these two laws had in the arrest in Starr County.
Zaena Zamora, executive director of Frontera Fund, said the details and the legalities of the case remain unclear. They said the indictment against Herrera, signed by a grand jury, prosecutor and judge, accused her of “intentionally and knowingly causing the death of an individual” by self-induced abortion.
Gonzalez said details in the case are unclear because Herrera has not spoken to the media and because the indictment itself is lacking in details.
“We don’t know what happened, we’re not able to access the warrant information, the indictment is very unclear as to whether Lizelle had a self-induced abortion or she was helping someone else have a self-induced abortion,” Gonzalez said.
“Lizelle’s charges were dropped because she did not break any laws, there’s nothing they can charge her with. The Texas penal code exempts pregnant people from being criminalized or charged for the outcome of their abortions,” Gonzalez clarified later.
Gonzalez said they pressured public authorities into dropping the charges, and Frontera Fund is now strategizing with partner groups in the valley and across the state to launch a statewide effort to protect pregnant people in Texas from similar incidents.
“This statewide effort that we are launching will put put broad pressure on local authorities to protect people’s rights, and we will organize against authorities that facilitied the arrest and the charges, and we are looking at our potential legal actions and strategizing with our legal team around that,” Gonzalez said.
They said they would like to remove the media spotlight from Herrera because she is in shock and recouppoerting.
“This goes beyond the arrest of one woman … Lizelle is not precedent-setting, she’s not the first person to be arrested for a pregnancy outcome,” Gonzalez said. “There’s over 1,200 documented cases of this happening.”
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org