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Texas Matters: Melissa Lucio's pending death and how abortion has changed in Texas

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David Martin Davies
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Supporters of Texas death row inmate Melissa Lucio gather in San Antonio at Milam Park.

With 10 weeks until Melissa Lucio’s scheduled execution her family members and supporters are trying to alert the public about the controversial case. They are traveling across Texas holding protests about the first woman of Hispanic descent in Texas to be sentenced to death.

“Deep down inside of course she’s feeling overwhelmed, tired, stressed out,” John Lucio said speaking about his mother Melissa.

He is one of her 14 children. Melissa is on Texas Death Row convicted of killing one of them, a 2-year-old toddler Mariah. Melissa said the child fell down a flight of stairs but prosecutors said she was beaten to death. John says there was no physical abuse in their Rio Grande Valley home.

“She was drug abuser, yes she was. She was neglectful towards us — still does not add up to child abuse,“ said John Lucio.

There was no Child Protective Services documentation of child abuse in the Lucio home. John Lucio is joined by about a dozen others in San Antonio’s Milam Park along with Sabrina Van Tassel who directed a documentary about Lucio’s case. She says it wasn’t a fair trial.

“She is poor. She has too many children. If she was a white male she wouldn’t be on death row today,” she said.

The latest legal filing to stop the execution was filed Friday. Attorneys for Melissa Lucio are seeking to remove Judge Gabriela Garcia and District Attorney Luis Saenz from the case because two key members of Lucio’s original defense team now work for them. Lucio is set for execution April 27.

Abortion Post SB8

The passage and implementation of Senate Bill 8 during the last legislative session in Texas put in place an ban on abortion at about six weeks. At the time it looked like that would effectively ban almost all legal abortions in the state, but in fact that has not happened. Washington Post reporter Caroline Kitchener tells us that there is a rush by women to seek abortions before that six week mark. Clinics are struggling to keep up.

Texas Sex Ed

One of the best ways to reduce abortions is to teach young people how not to get pregnant. But Texas is not doing a good job of doing that. The Texas new health education standards were finalized a little over a year ago, but 2022 is the first year they’ll actually be taught in schools across the state. These standards, which include sex education, had not been updated in more than two decades, but as KERA’s Elena Rivera reports, educators and teens say there’s still a lot missing.

Lacks Vax Trust

Now that the latest wave of COVID hospitalization is going down, local health officials are recharging their efforts to get more people vaccinated. Their focus is in Houston’s underserved communities, where vaccination rates are low and COVID deaths are high. Houston Public Media’s Matt Haram tells us how a partnership between the University of Houston and the city is attempting to lower vaccine hesitancy among people of color.

Prostrate Milkweed

A rare plant in South Texas is being proposed for Proposed for Endangered Species Protection. There is a public comment period open now for how to protect the Prostrate Milkweed. The plant can only be found along the border in Zapata and Starr counties. Michael Robinson is at the Center for biological diversity.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi