Starr County DA disciplined for that self-induced abortion murder charge from 2022

It’s something. Not much, but something.

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.

See here and here for the background. For reasons unclear to me, the AP story and the Trib story that followed up on it do not mention the name of the woman who had been arrested. It was reported at the time, you can see it in those earlier links and it will be in the Tags of this post, but I’ll follow their convention for the body of the post. This all happened after SB8, the vigilante bounty hunter law that banned abortion after 6 weeks was passed, but before the Dobbs decision was handed down. Not that it made any difference, I’m just noting it for context.

I’m glad the State Bar took action and I hope this serves as a reminder of what the current state of law is in Texas, but I can’t say I’m impressed. The fine is chump change, and while there was the threat of harsher action if the plea deal wasn’t accepted, it all just feels like the lightest of slaps on the wrist. If this is meant to be a deterrent for the next DA, one who may be more venal than Gocha Ramirez (who strikes me as more inept than anything else) was, then I have my doubts it will hold them back. I hope that hypothetical is never put to the test.

I would also caution anyone who might take comfort from the note that bills aimed at punishing women who self-induce abortions – you know, like by taking mifepristone – have not yet gained traction. I say “yet” deliberately, because this is a one-way ratchet, and I see no evidence that an abatement is coming. The true believers have only just begun. Do not give them the benefit of any doubt.

Related Posts:

This entry was posted in Legal matters and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.