NASHVILLE, Tennessee ( Associated Press) – As the Supreme Court seems on track to overthrow the constitutional right to abortion, progressive prosecutors across the U.S. are declaring that they will not violate some of the most restrictive and punitive anti-abortion laws passed by the IDP. do not enforce. states waited years to implement.
LOOK: How anti-abortion activists laid the foundation for the rollback of Roe v. Wade
The move will surely get Republican lawmakers and governors ranked, with about half of the states ready to ban abortion as Roe v. Wade – the 1973 decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion – is weakened or overturned. Many of those Republican-led states have abortion clinics in the major metro areas represented by Democratic district attorneys.
U.S. anti-abortion laws largely shy away from explicitly punishing pregnant women and are more likely to target doctors, who could face the loss of their medical license and long prison sentences for illegally performing the procedure. But some abortion restrictions will punish those who help with an abortion, and others may require women who have undergone the procedure to testify against those who have helped her.
Yet the application of these laws will largely fall on the shoulders of district attorneys, who have wide discretion over who to prosecute for crimes. At present, it is not uncommon for prosecutors elected in Democratic provinces to express their resistance to charges under various IDP-backed mandates – ranging from voting restrictions, restrictions on certain protest activities, laws aimed at LGBTQ people, and restrictions on mask requirements throughout the COVID-19 -19 outbreak.
In 2020, more than 70 prosecutors from blue districts across the country announced that they would not bring charges under increasingly strict laws approved by states against abortion because they “do not and will not criminalize health care decisions.”
And so far, a growing number of prosecutors elected in Democratic provinces have promised that they will not pursue the criminal charges hidden within the strictest abortion restrictions.
Michigan has become a particular battlefield over who will enforce the state’s abortion laws. Seven Democratic prosecutors there have vowed not to enforce the state’s long dormant ban on the procedure, while two Republican prosecutors have joined abortion opponents to reverse the recent suspension of the 1931 statute.
The law, which makes it a crime to help with an abortion, has had no practical effect for decades since abortion was legalized nationwide.
“Those archaic statutes are unconstitutional and dangerously vague, leaving the potential for the criminalization of doctors, nurses, anesthetists, health care providers, office receptionists – virtually anyone who either performs or assists in performing these medical procedures. Even the patient himself can face criminal liability under these statutes, ”prosecutors from the Detroit, Lansing, Flint and Ann Arbor areas wrote in a letter.
In GOP-controlled Tennessee, Glenn Funk, Democratic District Attorney for Nashville, issued a statement just hours after the leaked draft opinion was published in early May. Funk has promised that he will stand by his previous position not to prosecute medical practitioners who perform an abortion or any pregnant woman seeking the procedure.
“I am shocked that this assault on a woman’s personal health decisions is in jeopardy. I stand by my previous statement, ”Funk said, a day before he won the Democratic primary election against two opponents who refused to declare whether they would charge doctors.
Funk’s years of resistance to enforcing the state’s abortion laws, as well as several others, have already caused setbacks from Tennessee’s Republican leaders. Late last year, the General Assembly passed a law allowing the Attorney General to intervene in local affairs – which includes abortion charges. The law allows the state’s attorney general to ask the Tennessee Supreme Court to appoint a temporary prosecutor when the district attorney “essentially and categorically” refused to charge a case.
To date, the Attorney General’s office says it has not enforced the new law. Meanwhile, the state’s top Republican leaders – who oversee every major political office – remained mother to Funk’s defiant attitude, and his office refused to answer follow-up questions.
The National Law on Life Committee, which advocates abortion restrictions, has developed model legislation in case Roe is overthrown that will, among other things, authorize state attorneys general to file charges in abortion cases if local prosecutors refuse.
READ MORE: US abortions rose in 2020, with about 1 in 5 pregnancies ending
Chief prosecutors representing some of Texas’ most populous counties recently released a joint statement urging elected prosecutors to resist advancing charges that would “criminalize personal health care decisions.”
Like Tennessee, Texas is among the 13 states that have so-called trigger laws – measures that would ban most abortions and take effect almost automatically, should the country’s Supreme Court overturn the Roe. The ruling is expected to be announced by the end of June or early July.
“Many of these laws have the potential to criminalize the efforts of some to criminalize patients, medical professionals, health care providers, and others who help with these medical procedures,” wrote prosecutors, whose reach includes Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and parts of Houston. . .
The statement comes just weeks after a woman was arrested in Texas after a grand jury charged her with murder for allegedly “causing the death of an individual … by self-induced abortion”. Gocha Allen Ramirez, Starr County District Attorney, quickly moved to dismiss the charges, pointing out that the woman did not violate any state laws. Yet the incident only further reinforced the warnings of advocates of abortion rights that prosecutors will be the key in how anti-abortion laws are enforced at the local level.
Such decisions come because these attorneys often have to win elections to take over the top prosecutor role in their community. While many Republican hopefuls have publicly stated their intention to fully enforce the strictest anti-abortion laws, Democratic candidates hope their resistance will be enough to attract enough voters in key states.
In Arizona, Democrat Julie Gunningle quickly announced that she would not prioritize the prosecution of doctors or pregnant women in her bid to become a Maricopa County attorney, which includes the Phoenix metro area. Kris Mayes, the only Democrat to run for Arizona’s attorney general, also promised she would not prosecute abortion cases in a state that has both a state law that makes all abortions illegal and a new law passed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey is signed. prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Both seats were previously held by Republicans.
In Missouri, which has only one clinic – based in St. Louis. Louis – which provides abortions for the entire state – has shunned progressive prosecutors from issuing public statements promising to oppose anti-abortion laws enacted by Republican state lawmakers. Instead, they warn that the state’s trigger law will cause a “slippery slope.
As Roe v. Wade beaten, Wesley Bell, a Democrat, prosecutor from St. Louis County said, “It’s going to be open season and it’s going to have an exorbitant effect on poor people – Black and brown, but even poor white people. ”
Associated Press writers Bob Christie in Phoenix and Jim Salter in St. Louis. Louis, Missouri, contributed to this report.