Prosecutors Say They Won’t Enforce Anti-Abortion Laws as Protests Spread
WASHINGTON — A nationwide coalition of prosecutors is pledging not to enforce anti-abortion laws as protests spread against a Supreme Court nominee who is a staunch abortion opponent.
They issued their “Joint Statement from Elected Prosecutors” last week during Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Meanwhile, a major protest against Barrett and President Donald Trump by Women’s March organizers continued in Washington, D.C., and other cities Saturday.
The more than 60 state prosecutors also complained about a trend among state legislatures to pass laws that impose tough penalties on women who receive abortions and health care workers who perform them.
“It is imperative that we use our discretion to decline to prosecute personal health care choices criminalized under such laws,” the statement says.
Abortion was legalized by the Supreme Court in the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade. The prosecutors referred to the ruling when they wrote that “women have a right to make decisions about their own medical care including, but not limited to, seeking an abortion.”
They based their authority to decline prosecutions on the power of prosecutorial discretion, which refers to laws that grant them a right to decide who is prosecuted and for which crimes.
In some jurisdictions, prosecutors have used their discretion to reduce or eliminate prosecutions on marijuana charges.
A dozen states passed anti-abortion laws in the past year imposing criminal penalties on women who have abortions or doctors who perform them.
State laws that contributed to the prosecutors’ protest included a recent Alabama law that imposes a minimum prison sentence of 10 years on any doctor who performs an abortion.
They also cited a Tennessee “heartbeat” law that restricts abortions performed as soon as six weeks after conception.
Even within states that approved the laws, some prosecutors are dissenting. One of them was Danny Carr, the district attorney of Jefferson County, Ala., who signed the Joint Statement from Elected Prosecutors. Another was Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk.
Federal courts have blocked the Alabama and Tennessee laws pending appeals by groups on both sides of the dispute.
“Our U.S. Supreme Court, in deciding Roe v. Wade, determined that every woman has a fundamental right to privacy which is ‘broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy,’” the Joint Statement says. “As some elected prosecutors have noted, the broad restrictions in the laws passed by these states appear to be unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade.”
Other notable prosecutorial attorneys who signed the Joint Statement include California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and city prosecutors Cyrus Vance Jr. of New York, Kim Foxx of Chicago, Chesa Boudin of San Francisco and Larry Krasner of Philadelphia.
In Washington on Saturday, thousands of protesters carried protest signs and wore costumes as they marched through the streets.
The signs typically carried slogans like, “My Body, My Choice” and “Equal Rights for All Women.” Some women wore white lace collars and black robes in honor of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who made her reputation as a women’s rights advocate.
At one point, volunteers tried to keep Pro-Choice protesters and Pro-Life counter-protesters apart during shouting matches in front of the Supreme Court.
The demonstration took place days before the U.S. Senate is expected to vote to confirm Barrett to replace Ginsburg.
Barrett shares many of the conservative views of Trump and his Republican supporters on abortion and opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Republicans hold a majority in the Senate.
In The News
The American Civil Liberties Union on Monday sued the state of Texas to block “radical” new abortion restrictions currently set to take effect on Sept. 1. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Texas abortion providers -- led by Whole Woman’s Health -- doctors, health... Read More
A report from the U.S. voiced concern over ongoing human rights abuses, which the U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, at a press conference on Monday characterized as an attempt to apply international pressure to stop atrocities. In the 2021 Wiesel report, the country’s annual atrocity... Read More
COLUMBIA, S.C.- South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and others have appealed a federal court’s preliminary injunction preventing them implementing a ban on the abortion of a fetus with a detectable heartbeat. McMaster signed the South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act on Feb. 18. ... Read More
The court-appointed attorneys representing Britney Spears in her conservatorship case resigned Tuesday after the pop icon asked a judge for permission to hire her own counsel. The high-profile case is testing whether California's conservatorship laws protect the wealthy celebrities they are supposed to protect or the... Read More
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court plans to hear a case in its next term that could expand rights of discrimination victims to collect compensation for "emotional distress." A ruling that allows the compensation could widely broaden the liability for discrimination, potentially allowing anyone victimized by... Read More
The hashtag “#freebritney” has recently been flooding social media channels after the pop sensation claimed her 2008 court-mandated conservatorship withheld her from removing her intrauterine device, hindering her ability to reproduce, an issue which has been at the heart of many reproductive justice movements for decades. ... Read More