Texas prosecutor disciplined for allowing murder charge against woman who self-managed an abortion

The Starr County seal on Jan. 12, 2022. (Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune, Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune)

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A Texas prosecutor has been disciplined for allowing a murder charge to be filed against a woman who self-induced an abortion in 2022.

Starr County District Attorney Gocha Ramirez reached a settlement with the State Bar of Texas following an investigation. Ramirez agreed to pay a $1,250 fine, and his license will be held in a probated suspension for one year, ending on March 31, 2025. News of the January settlement was first reported by multiple outlets on Thursday.

The State Bar of Texas confirmed the settlement to The Texas Tribune on Friday and that it involved the case of a 26-year-old Texas woman who was arrested nearly two years ago and charged with murder in “the death of an individual by self-induced abortion.”

Ramirez could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday. He told the Associated Press Thursday that he “made a mistake in that case,” and had agreed to the settlement because it allows his office’s operations to continue, interruption-free. If the district attorney complies with the settlement’s terms, he will be allowed to continue practicing law.

In 2022, the woman was arrested and booked into the Starr County Detention Center on a $500,000 bond, where she spent two nights before Ramirez announced that charges against her would be dropped.

The case sparked national outrageTexas law exempts a pregnant person from being charged with murder or any homicide charge for an abortion. Abortion rights activists throughout the state’s border region banded together to fight the charges, including the Frontera Fund, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice and ACLU of Texas.

The State Bar of Texas’ investigation found that prosecutors working under Ramirez pursued criminal homicide charges for acts that were “clearly not criminal.” The investigation also revealed that Ramirez allowed an assistant to take the case to a grand jury — and that the district attorney “knowingly made a false statement” when he later told State Bar officials that he was not briefed on the facts of the case before it was presented.

The arrest was just months before the Supreme Court ended the national right to abortion in a landmark decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. At the time, Texas law banned abortion once cardiac activity could be detected — which often occurs before a woman is even aware of her pregnancy.

Following the Supreme Court decision, Texas joined many other states in enforcing a near-total ban on abortion. The state’s laws encourage the pursuit of lawsuits against health care providers and others who help women seeking abortions, but protect those women from criminal charges.

The State Bar of Texas did not release any details of the self-induced abortion. In the U.S., as abortion restrictions in states, including Texas, tighten, medication abortion now accounts for more than half of all abortions nationwide.

Disclosure: The State Bar of Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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