Criminal Law Reform issue image

Gonzalez v. Ramirez et al.

Location: Texas
Status: Ongoing
Last Update: June 24, 2024

What's at Stake

Although Texas law clearly prohibits prosecuting people for terminating their pregnancies, Starr County officials indicted, arrested, and jailed Lizelle Gonzalez for having an abortion. The ACLU’s Abortion Criminal Defense Initiative and Criminal Law Reform Project, alongside the ACLU of Texas and south Texas firm Garza Martinez, are representing Ms. Gonzalez in a lawsuit against Starr County and local officials based on violations of Ms. Gonzalez’s constitutional rights.

In 2022, Lizelle Gonzalez was arrested and unlawfully charged with murder for terminating her pregnancy. She spent three days in jail, away from her children, before the $500,000 bond was posted for her release. While the district attorney ultimately dismissed the charge against Ms. Gonzalez, her arrest on a homicide charge was highly publicized and deeply traumatizing. As a result of the false accusation and wrongful arrest, Lizelle Gonzalez’s life has been forever changed.

Following the dismissal, the Texas Bar investigated the district attorney for knowingly pursuing an unlawful indictment, and made multiple findings of misconduct related to charging Ms. Gonzalez with homicide. Despite these findings, the district attorney received a minimal punishment: a small fine and a one-year fully-probated suspension. Without real accountability, Starr County’s District Attorney — and any other law enforcement actor — will not be deterred from abusing their power to unlawfully target people on the basis of their personal beliefs, rather than the law.

The ACLU, the ACLU of Texas, and local firm Garza Martinez are representing Ms. Gonzalez in her civil rights lawsuit against the District Attorney, the Assistant District Attorney, the County Sheriff, and Starr County, seeking accountability and damages for her wrongful arrest, prosecution, and the trauma that followed. We seek to ensure that those entrusted with enforcing our criminal laws face consequences when they abuse their power and violate the constitutional rights of their community members.

Ms. Gonzalez’s case highlights how, despite the fact that most states prohibit the prosecution of pregnant people for ending their pregnancies, government officials will still go to extreme lengths to chill reproductive care and try to punish people who seek or obtain an abortion. We will continue to fight to ensure that no one is above the law and that elected officials are held accountable.

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