Texas continues its bid to be the worst state in the nation for abortion access, jailing a woman on murder charges for an alleged self-induced abortion. Lizelle Herrera was arrested Thursday, charged with murder, and held in a Rio Grande city jail for two nights before Starr County District Attorney Gocha Allen Ramirez said he would dismiss the charges.
While a state law passed in Texas last year bans performing an abortion on another person after six weeks pregnancy, it does not apply to self-induced abortions, nor does it allow for criminal charges. Its mechanism of enforcement is through civil lawsuits brought by citizens, not agents of the state.
"In reviewing applicable Texas law, it is clear that Ms. Herrera cannot and should not be prosecuted for the allegation against her," said Ramirez in a Sunday statement announcing that his office would file a motion to dismiss the charges on Monday. "It is my hope that with the dismissal of this case it is made clear that Ms. Herrera did not commit a criminal act under the laws of the State of Texas."
But Ramirez stopped short of condemning the Starr County Sheriff's Office for arresting and charging Herrera. "In reviewing this case, it is clear that the Starr County Sheriff's Department did their duty in investigating the incident brought to their attention by the reporting hospital," said Ramirez. "To ignore the incident would have been a dereliction of their duty."
He also included this weird bit of line-toeing:
Although with this dismissal Ms. Herrera will not face prosecution for this incident, it is clear to me that the events leading up to this indictment have taken a toll on Ms. Herrera and her family. To ignore this fact would be shortsighted. The issues surrounding this matter are clearly contentious, however based on Texas law and the facts presented, it is not a criminal matter.
Lots of things "take a toll" on people and their families without prosecutors considering it "shortsighted" to ignore them or decline to file criminal charges.
Precise details of what happened with Herrera's pregnancy are not clear. But "what is alleged is that she was in the hospital and had a miscarriage and divulged some information to hospital staff who then reported her to police. And then she was arrested and her bail was set at half a million dollars," Rockie Gonzalez, founder of the abortion rights group La Frontera Fund, told journalist Pablo De La Rosa in an interview he posted to Soundcloud.
Protesters mobilized by @LaFronteraFund and South Texas for Reproductive Justice at Starr County Jail after Lizelle Herrera's arrest. Follow @Wzrd_of_Lnlynss who is there this morning for updates. Full audio of my interview with Frontera's Chairwoman here: https://t.co/2waLg1QPk1 pic.twitter.com/g5JnL68bZy
— Pablo De La Rosa (@pblodlr) April 9, 2022
An index of school book bans. PEN America has put together a document detailing book bans in U.S. school libraries and classrooms between July 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022. "This is the first time PEN America has conducted a formal count of books banned," the group says. During the nine-month period, PEN America found 1,586 instances of books being banned, for a total of 1,145 individual books targeted in 86 schools districts spread across 26 states.
"This encompasses different types of bans, including removals of books from school libraries, prohibitions in classrooms, or both, as well as books banned from circulation during investigations resulting from challenges from parents, educators, administrators, board members, or responses to laws passed by legislatures," explains PEN America. "These numbers represent a count of cases either reported directly to PEN America and/or covered in the media; there may be other cases of bans that have not been reported and are thus not included in this count."
"It is not just the number of books removed that is disturbing, but the processes–or lack thereof–through which such removals are being carried out," suggests PEN America. "Of 1,586 bans listed in the Index, PEN America found that the vast majority (98%) have involved various departures from best practice guidelines outlined by the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and the American Library Association (ALA)."
An alarming number of these bans—41 percent—stem from directives from government officials. "This is an unprecedented shift in PEN America's long history of responding to book bans, from the more typical pattern in which demands for book removals are initiated by local community members," the group points out.
The most frequent themes in banned books were race, sexual orientation, gender, or sexual activity:
Of the titles in the Index, 467 contain protagonists or prominent secondary characters of color (41%), and 247 directly address issues of race and racism (22%); 379 titles (33%) explicitly address LGBTQ+ themes, or have protagonists or prominent secondary characters who are LGBTQ+; 283 titles contain sexual content of varying kinds (25%), including novels with sexual encounters as well as informational books about puberty, sex, or relationships. There are 184 titles (16%) that are history books or biographies. Another 107 titles have themes related to rights and activism (9%).
President Joe Biden is expected to announce new gun regulations today. That sentence seems wrong, no? Isn't making gun laws a job for state or federal legislators? How can the president just unilaterally declare restrictions on buying or owning a legal good? But that is, alas, the current state of executive power in the U.S. In this latest round of executive overreach, Biden is expected to announce new regulations on gun-making parts and kits. The fruits of these kits are often referred to as "ghost guns." From CNN:
Following a 2021 directive from the Biden administration, the ATF proposed a rule in May last year to allow the bureau to classify the building blocks that often make up ghost guns as firearms. The rule has been winding its way through the federal regulation process since then.
The ATF rule addresses a key problem in tracking and regulating ghost guns because certain frames and receivers used to assemble the guns are often purchased online and not classified as firearms by the bureau.
The rule would also require manufactures who sell parts to assemble ghost guns to be licensed and to run background checks on potential purchasers of the kits used to assemble the products.
The Justice Department has also launched a national ghost gun enforcement initiative, which will "train a national cadre of prosecutors and disseminate investigation and prosecution tools to help bring cases against those who use ghost guns to commit crimes," according to the White House.
Biden is also expected to nominate Steve Dettelbach as the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Huge blow to the FBI: Zero guilty verdicts in the case of the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan governor. Not guilty verdict for three, hung jury on the alleged ringleader, per @PeteWilliamsNBC
— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) April 8, 2022
• Politico does a deep dive into U.S. Food and Drug Administration failures.
• "Two measures that severely restrict abortions were halted on Friday, one by Kentucky's governor and a second by Idaho's supreme court," notes the Guardian. "In Kentucky, Democratic governor Andy Beshear vetoed a Republican-priority bill on Friday that would ban abortions in the state after 15 weeks of pregnancy and regulate the dispensing of abortion pills." The Idaho court temporarily blocked enforcement of a law that would allow family members of an aborted fetus to sue if doctors performed the abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
• Walmart is being sued by the Federal Trade Commission, which alleges that the retailer falsely advertised rayon products as being made of bamboo.
• California continues its bid to drive big employers out of the state. Under legislation "winding its way through the state Legislature … employers would be required to provide overtime pay for employees working longer than four full days," the Los Angeles Times reports.
• An opportunity to end discrimination against religious schools, or a blurring of the separation of church and state? The Supreme Court will decide in a case involving Maine school vouchers.
• Lab-grown meat companies are experimenting with cultivating exotic meats including elephant and tiger.
• Checking in on the French presidential election:
Great summary of French presidential election. This implosion of numbers for established parties should remind Americans that the recent weirdness of politics isn't at all US-specific. The world has changed. Blaming it on certain characters here is parochial at best. https://t.co/oO95NPHA33
— Anthony Sanders (@IJSanders) April 11, 2022