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How the reproductive rights groups reacted to the Lizelle Herrera arrest

Respect. Deep, abiding respect.

Cathy Torres was ready to log off for the weekend and start celebrating her 26th birthday when she got a text message with a link to a local news story: A woman in the Rio Grande Valley had been arrested for a “self-induced abortion.”

“I was just completely sick to my stomach,” Torres said. “I couldn’t believe it. I was just panicking.”

But not for long. Torres is based in Edinburg and works as the organizing manager for the Frontera Fund, a nonprofit that helps people in the Rio Grande Valley access and pay for abortions. She sent the story to the group’s leadership, as well as other reproductive rights advocacy groups in the area.

Ten minutes later, they were on a Zoom call. Fifteen minutes later, they had plans for a protest at the Starr County Jail the next day. They contacted partner organizations around the state and country to draw attention to the case, created social media messaging and started working with legal aid groups to figure out how to post bail.

Their furious work was interrupted only when there was a knock on Torres’s door: her best friend, who had driven hours to celebrate her birthday with her.

“I opened the door and she was there with balloons and I was just like, ‘Thank you so much for being here, but you won’t believe what happened,’” Torres said. “She was so great, though. She was like, ‘OK, let’s go to work.’”

Over the next three days, a coalition of small, scrappy local reproductive rights advocacy organizations fanned the flames of a national firestorm that subsided only when Starr County District Attorney Gocha Ramirez agreed to drop the murder charges against 26-year-old Lizelle Herrera.

Many details of the case remain murky. But as whole regions of the country prepare to follow Texas’ lead in significantly curtailing abortion access, local organizers say they want this weekend’s activism to send a clear message:

“I hope that people get that we’re not just going to stand back and let all of this happen,” said Nancy Cárdenas Peña, the Texas director of policy and advocacy for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice. “They can’t just mess with us. We’ll fight back. We’ve proved that time and time again.”

See here and here for the background, and of course read the rest. You might also listen to the May 17 edition of the What Next podcast, which featured an interview with Cathy Torres of the Frontera Fund. These folks deserve our respect and our support.

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