By Anika Khubchandani
LOS ANGELES – Sixty-four elected prosecutors across the U.S. – including CA Attorney General Xavier Becerra – Wednesday presented a joint statement vowing to “not enforce laws criminalizing abortion,” even if the justices on the Supreme Court decide to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Since Roe v. Wade ruled that every woman has a fundamental right to privacy, this notion of privacy is “broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy,” the statement said.
Elected prosecutors not only understand their duty “uphold the Constitution and the rule of law,” they said, but they also realize that it is their responsibility to “protect the safety and well-being of all individuals in [their] communities.”
With the struggles of the pandemic, paired with economic recession and great uncertainty, these prosecutors are in the unique position “to lead and to offer peace of mind to women and healthcare professionals who might otherwise be placed in the untenable position of choosing between the exercise of personal healthcare choices and the threat of criminal prosecution,” said Miriam Krinsky, Executive Director of Fair and Just Prosecution.
Despite the ruling of Roe v. Wade in 1973, attacks on women’s rights have persisted throughout the years. In just this past year, “12 states have enacted abortion bans” with deliberately vague laws and statutes. The intention is to expand the “possibility of criminal prosecution” and provide “lengthy sentences for anyone involved in an abortion,” shared the signatories.
For example, Tennessee’s recently implemented law enforces strict restrictions performing abortions. Any healthcare professional performing an abortion could potentially receive a sentence of anywhere from 3-15 years.
Since Idaho and Utah possess “trigger ban laws,” healthcare providers who permit abortions could face felony charges if Roe v. Wade is overturned. In Alabama, physicians performing abortions can face sentences up to 99 years, with no exceptions to cases involving rape or incest.
In addition, Georgia’s 2019 abortion measure grants district attorneys the discretion to “bring criminal charges and seek imprisonment against anyone and everyone involved in performing and assisting with an abortion,” said the prosecutors. The state of Arkansas has banned abortions by labeling the procedure as a “nonessential” service, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.
Several more blatant examples of states attacking the reproductive rights of women exist, said the signatories, who acknowledge that not all prosecutors “agree on a personal or moral level on the issue of abortion.”
However, they all share the view that it is not the role of prosecutors to “criminalize healthcare decisions such as these.” Instead, prosecutors have the obligation and discretion to pursue the “furtherance of policies and practices that protect the well-being and safety of all members” of society.
Sherry Boston, the District Attorney of Dekalb County in Georgia, stresses her “responsibility to pursue justice” for everyone in her community.
These recently enacted laws “not only fail to consider the needs of victims,” but they could potentially undermine public safety “by spending prosecutorial resources on the victim or the professionals who provided them with needed and appropriate care” instead of the perpetrators of “child molestation, rape, incest, human trafficking or domestic violence,” she added.
These laws that “revictimize and retraumatize victims” are outrageous, declared the signatories. For this reason, these elected prosecutors choose to utilize their discretion to not “prosecute individuals pursuant to these deeply concerning laws.”
Roe v. Wade established the legal precedent that “women have a right to make decisions about their own medical care including, but not limited to, seeking an abortion,” reiterated the signers. It is the intention of these elected prosecutors to continue to uphold the rule of law and “preserve the integrity of our justice system.”
Prominent signatories include: Attorneys General Xavier Becerra (California), Thomas J. Donovan Jr. (Vermont), Keith Ellison (Minnesota), Maura Healey (Massachusetts), Letitia James (New York), Kathleen Jennings (Delaware), Karl Racine (District of Columbia), Kwame Raoul (Illinois), Ellen Rosenblum (Oregon), Josh Shapiro (Pennsylvania) and Phil Weiser (Colorado), as well as elected prosecutors from states with recently passed or contemplated abortion restrictions such as Sherry Boston (DeKalb County, Georgia), Danny Carr (Jefferson County, Alabama), Shameca Collins (6th Judicial District, Mississippi), David Cooke (Macon Judicial Circuit, Georgia), John Creuzot (Dallas County, Texas), Glenn Funk (Nashville, Tennessee), Joe Gonzales (Bexar County, Texas), Mark Gonzalez (Nueces County, Texas), Paul Howard (Fulton County, Georgia), Zach Klein (Columbus, Ohio), Brian Middleton (Fort Bend County, Texas), Jody Owens (Hinds County, Mississippi), Daniella Shorter (22nd Judicial District, Mississippi) and Carol Siemon (Ingham County, Michigan).
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