Sixty-four of the nation’s elected prosecutors, such as 10 state attorneys general, released a joint statement Wednesday morning pledging to not criminalize abortion even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
The prosecutors said their choice would be in keeping with their oath of”protecting the integrity of our justice system and upholding the Constitution and rule of law”
The group said their statement was partly prompted by rising concerns over the passage of legislation in the last couple of years in at least a dozen states that they state impose broad restrictions on abortion and are”ambiguous or silent as to whom they’d maintain criminally responsible.” Under regulations, patients, healthcare professionals and healthcare providers could possibly be criminally charged and imprisoned if the Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark decision giving women the Constitutional right to choose to get an abortion without excess government restriction is struck down.
“Our dedication to not violate women who obtain abortions and healthcare professionals who provide treatment isn’t based on these issues alone — and, indeed, would hold even if the protections of Roe v. Wade were to be eroded or overturned,” the prosecutors said in their announcement.
The statement comes amid the background of confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, the conservative appeals court judge President Donald Trump has chosen to fulfill the High Court chair of overdue Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was the veteran of the Supreme Court’s liberal wing. Barett’s confirmation would heavily tilt the Supreme Court to the right by a count of six to three.
While Barrett has repeatedly declined through her confirmation hearings this week to say she would rule on abortion, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have posed questions in a manner suggesting they believe she opposes abortion.
Democrats have cautioned her confirmation could lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
“Elected prosecutors are entrusted with immense discretion to protect the well-being and security of everybody in their community and to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law,” explained Miriam Krinsky, executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, which coordinated the joint statement.
“During this time of tragedy when so many in our neighborhood are still grappling with the challenges of a global outbreak, economic recession, and tremendous uncertainty — chosen prosecutors have the chance to lead and to provide peace of mind to women and health care professionals who may otherwise be put in the untenable position of choosing between the exercise of personal healthcare choices and the threat of criminal prosecution,” Krinsky said.
Among the signatures on the announcement are the attorneys general of New York, California, Minnesota, Delaware, Vermont, Massachusetts, Oregon, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Washington D.C.
The group represents a fraction of the more than 2,400 elected prosecutors in the country, 83% of which are men.
Recently passed laws curbing abortion rights
In their announcement, the prosecutors noted many legislation recently passed aimed at curbing abortion rights, such as the”heartbeat” law enacted in Tennessee in July that imposes restrictions on performing abortions, for example gestational bans as early as fourteen. Under the Tennessee law, convicted violators can face prison sentences of up to 15 years and fines of up to $10,000.
Back in Idaho and Utah, the prosecutors said, recently enacted”trigger bans” would ban abortion with limited exceptions when Roe v. Wade were overturned or a constitutional amendment restricting abortion rights had been passed.
“It’s disturbingly clear that reproductive rights are under an unprecedented assault at both the national level and in a number of states, and my workplace has fought tirelessly to defend women’s rights against those assaults,” Delaware State Attorney General Kathleen Jennings said in a statement.
Jennings said she’s grateful that Delaware and a lot of other nations had the foresight to codify Roe v. Wade into country legislation to permanently protect women’s right to safe and legal abortion.
“But I’m clear-eyed that this battle goes on beyond our nation’s borders,” Jennings said. “Draconian laws that unconstitutionally restrict or outright abolish abortion make us less secure, not more, and the disinformation campaigns which warp the facts and denigrate women who opt to terminate a pregnancy are shameless.”
A number of the prosecutors that signed the statement are from states which have recently passed legislation restricting abortion.
Danny Carr, who signed the statement, is the District Attorney of Jefferson County, Alabama, a state that enacted a law May 2019 making it a felony for doctors to perform abortions in all circumstances, with the sole exception being when the lifetime of the mother is threatened. In October 2019, a federal judge blocked the Alabama abortion ban from taking effect and called the law unconstitutional.
The legislation was passed even though a federal judge temporarily blocking another Mississippi law banning most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Sherry Boston and Paul Howard, who also signed the statement, are equally district lawyers in Georgia, a state that passed a step in 2019 prohibiting abortions after six months of pregnancy or following a doctor detects a fetal heartbeat. That law, too, was struck down by an appeals court as unconstitutional.
“As the elected District Attorney for my County, each day, firsthand I see the pain and trauma victims of crime go through and it’s my obligation to pursue justice to them and for all members of my area,” Boston said in a statement on Wednesday. “These laws not only don’t think about the needs of victims but they might actually harm public security by spending prosecutorial resources on the victim or the professionals who supplied them with desired and proper maintenance, instead of about the perpetrators of child molestation, rape, incest, human trafficking, or domestic violence.”