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TX Woman Sues Prosecutors Over Wrongful Abortion Charges

A woman in Texas who was falsely charged with murder over a self-induced abortion has filed a lawsuit against the local prosecutor’s office, seeking more than $1 million in damages.  Lizelle Gonzalez was arrested in April 2022 in Starr County, near the southeastern border with Mexico, and charged with murder after using the drug misoprostol to self-induce an abortion, 19 weeks into her pregnancy. She spent two nights in jail before the charge was dropped. Self-induced abortions can refer to those performed outside of professional medical care, including the use of abortion pills. Under Texas law at the time, abortions after six weeks were illegal, but pregnant women are exempt from criminal prosecution. Health care professionals who provide abortion procedures and medication, and others who help someone get an abortion, can still be liable. Gonzalez, who was known as Lizelle Herrera, was 26 at the time of her arrest. She filed a complaint on Thursday against Starr County, along with its district attorney, Gocha Ramirez, and assistant district attorney, Alexandria Lynn Barrera. She argues that the arrest and charge resulted in her suffering reputational harm and distress, and seeks to “vindicate her rights but also to hold accountable the government officials who violated them,”, the New York Times reports.


A month ago, the state bar of Texas found that Ramirez had unlawfully prosecuted Gonzalez without probable cause and fined him $1,250. His law license will also be held in probated suspension for a year, which means he must comply with specific requirements but can practice law. According to the complaint, Gonzalez took the abortion medication in January 2022 and went to the hospital for an examination. Doctors found a positive heartbeat for the fetus and no contractions, so she was discharged the next day. Later that day, she returned to the hospital with complaints of vaginal bleeding, and doctors performed a C-section to deliver a stillborn child. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of misoprostol and mifepristone, another commonly used abortion pill, through 10 weeks of pregnancy, under the supervision of a health care provider. The World Health Organization endorses self-induced abortions in pregnancies of up to 12 weeks without medical supervision. Gonzalez says in the lawsuit that the hospital employees reported her self-induced abortion to the district attorney’s office, in violation of federal privacy laws. The lawsuit says that neither the Starr County Sheriff’s Office nor the Rio Grande City Police Department performed an investigation with sufficient facts or circumstances surrounding the murder charge against her, and relied on reports from the hospital. Gonzalez accuses them of misleading the grand jury with false information to secure her indictment.

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