Last month, 26-year-old Lizelle Herrera of Texas was charged with murder over a self-induced abortion. A hospital had reported the abortion to law enforcement. Prosecutors dropped the charge. If the Supreme Court weakens or overturns the right to abortion as expected, health advocates warn that more people who manage their own abortions using Food and Drug Administration-approved medications, herbal remedies or other non-medical methods will be falsely arrested on charges of violating abortion bans, homicide laws and other criminal statutes, reports Stateline. “Once federal protection of abortion is gone,” said Drexel University law Prof. David Cohen, “we can expect to see more overzealous local prosecutors taking aggressive actions against people for self-managed abortions and other pregnancy outcomes.”
Lawmakers and criminal justice officials in a few states are trying to prevent these rogue legal actions, which conflict with current state laws and mostly have been overturned by courts. Even in left-leaning states, advocates fear more women will be charged. Ever since the Supreme Court guaranteed the right to abortion in 1973, state laws restricting the procedure have held abortion providers, not pregnant people, responsible. Prosecutors who have charged women with self-induced abortion have argued they violated a variety of other state laws, including manslaughter, fetal homicide and homicide by child abuse. Physicians, public health officials and women’s advocates have cautioned that arrests for self-managed abortions and miscarriages will disproportionately stigmatize low-income people, immigrants and women of color who lack access to reproductive health care. The number of such cases has been rare: 1,700 arrests and other legal actions since 1973, including surveillance and child services interventions, according to National Advocates for Pregnant Women. Civil rights advocates believe attempts to prosecute women for self-managed abortions will rise as state abortion bans tighten and more women choose to end pregnancies on their own.