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DA declines to seek murder charges in abortion case

Woman accused of using pills to end pregnancy

An 18-year-old Dominican immigrant charged two months ago with illegally inducing an abortion by taking anti-ulcer pills will not face homicide charges, prosecutors said yesterday.

Prosecutors had been considering the more serious charge after Amber Abreu prematurely delivered a 1-pound girl named Ashley at Lawrence General Hospital on Jan. 6. She died four days later. Abreu, a Lawrence resident, allegedly admitted that she had taken three Cytotec pills before giving birth, an abortion method that is common in some Latin American communities, authorities said.

Abortion is illegal in Massachusetts after 24 weeks of pregnancy, and any action to cause a miscarriage after that threshold could lead to homicide charges.

The state medical examiner determined that Abreu's fetus had been 25 weeks old at death, according to the Essex district attorney's office. Prosecutors, however, decided that they would probably not be able to convince a jury that Ashley was a viable human being who had been killed.

"The baby was 25 weeks, and you can't prove viability beyond a reasonable doubt at 25 weeks," said Steve O'Connell , a spokesman for the office.

Yesterday, an Essex County grand jury indicted Abreu on the lesser charge of illegally procuring an abortion, a felony that carries up to seven years in prison if convicted.

Abreu has been released on $15,000 bail. O'Connell said she will be arraigned in Salem Superior Court within the next two weeks.

The decision by prosecutors ends speculation on an unusual case at the complex intersection of law, medicine, and culture.

Authorities said that Abreu showed up at Lawrence General complaining of stomach pains, gave birth, then disappeared. Doctors rushed Ashley to Tufts-New England Medical Center, but physicians there were unable to keep her alive.

Prosecutors said that Abreu told police, "I killed my baby." The baby's father had apparently returned to the Dominican Republic.

Prosecutors said at the time of her arrest that Abreu, who arrived in the United States in 2005, had obtained the Cytotec pills from a friend.

Cytotec is the brand name for misoprostol, which forms part of a government-approved abortion method. It is typically prescribed for ulcers. Studies have shown that many Latina women have turned to the drug as a cheap form of abortion.

Raja Mishra can be reached at