Texas prosecutor is fined for allowing murder charges against a woman who self-managed an abortion

FILE - Abortion rights demonstrators attend a rally at the Texas state Capitol in Austin, Texas, May 14, 2022. In news reports Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, a prosecutor whose office charged a woman with murder for a self-managed abortion in 2022 has been disciplined for his role in the case. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)


The Associated Press

A Texas prosecutor has been disciplined for allowing murder charges to be filed against a woman who self-managed an abortion in a case that sparked national outrage.

Starr County District Attorney Gocha Ramirez agreed to pay a $1,250 fine and have his license held in a probated suspension for 12 months in a settlement reached with the State Bar of Texas. Ramirez will be able to continue practicing law as long as he complies with the terms of the January settlement, which was first reported by news outlets on Thursday.

The case stirred anger among abortion rights advocates when the 26-year-old woman was arrested in April 2022 and charged with murder in “the death of an individual by self-induced abortion.”

Under the abortion restrictions in Texas and other states, women who seek abortion are exempt from criminal charges.

Measures to punish such women — rather than health care providers and other helpers — have not picked up traction in legislatures where the idea has been raised.

Ramirez announced the charges would be dropped just days after the woman’s arrest but not before she’d spent two nights in jail and was identified by name as a murder suspect.

But a State Bar investigation found that he had permitted an assistant to take the case to a grand jury, and knowingly made a false statement when he said he hadn’t known about the charges before they were filed.

“I made a mistake in that case,” Ramirez told The Associated Press in a phone interview Thursday. He said he agreed to the punishment because it allows his office to keep running and him to keep prosecuting cases. He said no one else faces sanctions.

Authorities did not release details about the self-managed abortion. But across the U.S., the majority of abortions are now completed using medications at home or some other private setting.

In 2022, Texas was operating under a law that bans abortion once cardiac activity can be detected, which is often before a woman realizes she’s pregnant. Instead of relying on charges brought by officials, the law’s enforcement mechanism encourages private citizens to file lawsuits against doctors or others who help women obtain abortions.

Months after the Texas woman’s arrest, the U.S. Supreme Court ended the nationwide right to abortion, clearing the way for most Republican-controlled states to impose deeper restrictions. Texas and 13 other states now enforce bans on abortion at all stages of pregnancy.