Over the weekend, Lizelle Herrera, a 26-year-old woman in Texas, was arrested and jailed. charged with murder for alleged self-induced abortion. The charges against Herrera were final dropped on Sunday, but the damage was already done: another person was criminalized and jailed in the United States over the outcome of her pregnancy.
Herrera’s story quickly garnered national attention and outrage, and the guide of black and brown activists in Texas eventually won their freedom. But tragically, their story is not an anomaly: nearly 1,300 people have been criminalized for pregnancy including self-administered abortions, between 2006 and 2020. This number has tripled compared to the period between 1973 and 2005, according to to the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW). Laws like Texas’ near-total abortion ban that encourages citizens to spy on and sue each otherand escalating threats to Roe v. calf these include a upcoming fall this summer have continued to veil abortion and miscarriage with stigma and criminal suspicion—especially as increasingly People terminate pregnancies using medicated abortion pills, which are medically indistinguishable from miscarriages.
No one is ever to blame for losing a pregnancy, which is often traumatic enough in itself, and no one is to blame for being prosecuted for that experience. But legal experts and reproductive justice advocates say there are critical steps we can take to minimize our risk of criminalization and arrest at this increasingly dangerous time for pregnant people in the United States.
“The main risk people face when they perform an abortion themselves is no longer medical, as it used to be roe, but the risk of criminalization,” Farah Diaz-Tello, senior counsel and legal director of legal advocacy group If/When/How for Reproductive Justice, told Jezebel. If/when/how does that work Repro Legal Defense Fund, which provides legal and financial support to people like Herrera. “The better people understand their rights or how to keep their information private, the better they can be protected from criminalization.”
Just like Jezebel before reported, a pregnant person can be criminalized if they eat poppy seeds and test positive for substance use. assembling the trauma losing a pregnancy, someone who may have used alcohol and drugs can be charged with fetus, manslaughter or child abuse, and arrested and imprisoned. The list of reasons some have been arrested is virtually endless: survive violence which leads to miscarriages, stillbirths and “improper” disposal of fetal remainsor even one home birth with complications.
That Herrera is a Latina woman cannot be ignored. People of color, who are more likely to be harmed by the criminal justice system, have been disproportionately the target of criminalizing pregnancy. It is noteworthy that like Purvi PatelHerrera, who was convicted of fetal murder in 2015 for allegedly self-induced abortion, was reported to police by Herrera hospital staff. The medical system often works with law enforcement to monitor pregnant individuals. Consider the prevalence of non-consensual drug testing of pregnant patients, which has discouraged those with substance use struggles from seeking vital prenatal care. That’s why some proponents say reproductive justice requires abolition and dismissal.
The gutting of roe, the rapid spread of government bans on abortion, and the degradation of our most basic privacy rights have created a perfect storm for the surveillance, criminalization, and incarceration of pregnant people. Jezebel spoke to If/When/How about how we can protect ourselves from criminalization for pregnancy loss and abortion.
Minimize your digital footprint
Your text messages and online searches can and will be used against you.
In 2018, Lattice Fisher, a black mother of three in Mississippi, was jailed shortly after her stillbirth because prosecutors misused her online search for abortion pills proof their “motive”. In Indiana in 2015, Patel was jailed and charged with fetus, allegedly arranging an abortion, and her online purchase of abortion pills as well as her texting with a friend used as evidence against them.
The internet is an essential tool for getting accurate information about pregnancy and abortion, says Diaz-Tello. To minimize your digital footprint when accessing these resources, research using a computer in a public place like the library or a virtual private network (VPN). Use encrypted messaging platforms like Signal or Protonmail to text and communicate about pregnancy loss and self-administered abortion situations.
Knowing who to call for help—and when a visit to the emergency room may be unnecessary
“Unfortunately, for many people who are targeted by law enforcement through reporting by healthcare providers, it’s possible that they may not need medical care at all,” Diaz-Tello said. Instead, she notes that some miscarriage or self-abortion patients who were arrested “just weren’t sure if [the medication abortion] worked or was alerted by bleeding.”
Because of this, it is important to know which hotlines and groups are safe for health professionals to contact. That M+A hotlineor Miscarriage+Abortion Hotline, will confidentially answer all your questions about self-administered abortions and miscarriages and is staffed by “pro-abortion doctors with years of experience treating miscarriage and abortion.” You can call or text the hotline at 1-833-246-2632. But to make sure your cell phone provider can’t access your texts and calls, you can use the Google Voice app or platforms like cellcrypt. In the event that you are charged or investigated for a pregnancy outcome, you can contact us directly NAPW or If/When/How is Repro Legal Defense Fund.
Be careful how you use abortion pills
Medicated abortion pills are very safe and effective for the first 10 weeks of pregnancy – but it’s important to follow everything instructions when used to avoid complications that could potentially require a visit to the emergency department and subsequent exposure to law enforcement.
have abortion workers written down the particular importance of taking the pills orally rather than inserting them into the vagina as they can leave residue in the vagina which may appear during a pelvic exam or other medical examination. In contrast, no medical examination can detect residues from oral ingestion of the pills.
know your rights
Because abortion pills terminate a pregnancy by causing a miscarriage, a self-performed abortion with pills is medically indistinguishable from a miscarriage. As abortion bans spread and with roe On the line, Diaz-Tello says it’s important to know that you don’t have to disclose to healthcare providers that you arranged for an abortion. However, people are still routinely criminalized for the full range of pregnancy outcomes, and not just self-performed abortions.
Cynthia Conti-Cook, technology fellow at the Ford Foundation, which focuses on gender, racial, and ethnic justice, and author of “Surveilling the Digital Abortion Diary” told Jezebel that it is crucial for women and pregnant people to know their rights when it comes to speaking to law enforcement or sharing evidence. Police get a lot of their evidence against someone who lost a pregnancy or induced an abortion from individuals “voluntarily giving up their phones,” Conti-Cook says, because they don’t know they have the ability to say no.
When it comes to criminalizing pregnancy, police often rely on people who don’t know their rights to avoid incriminating themselves or seeking legal counsel. When police question a patient at their bedside, which “is very common,” says Diaz-Tello, they often fail to tell people their rights or even disclose that it is an interrogation. “The criminalization of pregnancy and policing exposes the complete lack of consistency between the health care system and the law enforcement system,” Diaz-Tello said. “People should be able to freely provide as much information as possible to their healthcare providers so that their providers can provide them with the best care.” The collusion of these two systems, she says, instead puts patients at risk.
Today the timing of increasing abortion restrictions and cases like Herrera’s is no coincidence: both are rooted in government surveillance of pregnancies, forced childbirth and punishment of those who can’t or don’t comply.
Ultimately, the consequences of criminalization and incarceration for a pregnancy outcome continue even after the charges are dropped. “This person is disconnected from their community, they’re traumatized, their mugshots are being circulated online creating a kind of indelible public record of this truly dehumanizing experience, and they may be too scared to even seek medical help again,” said Diaz – Said Tello. “It’s not just the immediate effects that someone faces — the effects are much longer-term and devastating.”
https://jezebel.com/how-not-to-get-arrested-for-miscarriage-or-abortion-a-1848779647 Protect yourself from arrest for miscarriage and abortion