Dozens of state and local prosecutors released a statement Friday vowing not to enforce extreme anti-abortion restrictions recently passed in their states.
“As elected prosecutors with charging discretion, we choose not to prosecute individuals pursuant to these deeply concerning laws,” reads the statement issued by Fair and Just Prosecution, an advocacy group whose members include local prosecutors.
The statement is signed by 42 elected officials, including 12 state attorneys general. The signers represent jurisdictions in 24 states, including Georgia, Alabama, Texas and Ohio, which are among those that have recently passed or proposed laws sharply restricting or outright banning abortion.
“To fulfill our obligations as prosecutors and ministers of justice, to preserve the integrity of the system and keep our communities safe and healthy, it is imperative that we use our discretion to decline to prosecute personal healthcare choices criminalized under such laws,” the statement says.
The prosecutors argue that anti-abortion restrictions passed in 11 states this year are unconstitutional under the historic Roe v. Wade ruling, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the U.S. Additionally, they say many of the new laws are written so vaguely that they criminalize nearly everyone involved in an abortion procedure, including people receiving an abortion, medical professionals and even the person who drove the patient to get the procedure.
Alabama passed the most extreme of the new laws last month, banning all abortions from the time a person is “known to be pregnant” and providing no exceptions for rape or incest. The law punishes doctors performing abortions with prison sentences of 10 years to 199 years.
Georgia passed a “heartbeat bill” last month, which bans abortion at around six weeks ― a time when most women do not know they’re pregnant. That law allows prosecutors to charge anyone involved in or assisting with an abortion procedure.
Other states that have recently passed anti-abortion restrictions include Ohio, Missouri and Louisiana. In April, lawmakers in Texas introduced a bill that would threaten people who undergo an abortion procedure with the death penalty.
The prosecutors’ statement says they hold varying opinions on the “personal or moral level” of abortion, but agree for certain on one thing: Criminalizing abortion will hurt marginalized people, such as survivors of rape or incest.
“Laws that re-victimize and re-traumatize victims are unconscionable,” the statement reads. ”... The wise exercise of discretion suggests focusing prosecutorial resources on the child molester or rapist, and not on prosecuting the victim herself, or the healthcare professionals who provide that victim with needed care and treatment.”
Sherry Boston, Georgia district attorney for DeKalb County, which includes part of Atlanta, explained in the press release that she’s concerned for victims of rape and incest.
“I question the constitutionality of these laws, which fail to consider the needs and suffering of victims of child molestation, rape and incest,” Boston said. “As an elected DA, I have a responsibility to use my limited resources to enforce laws that are legally sound and promote the safety, health and well-being of all members of my community – including vulnerable victims.”
Other signers of the statement represent states that have taken action this year to protect abortion rights.
Read the full statement below.
How to vote
Vote-by-mail ballot request deadline: Varies by state
For the Nov 3 election: States are making it easier for citizens to vote absentee by mail this year due to the coronavirus. Each state has its own rules for mail-in absentee voting. Visit your state election office website to find out if you can vote by mail.Get more information
In-person early voting dates: Varies by state
Sometimes circumstances make it hard or impossible for you to vote on Election Day. But your state may let you vote during a designated early voting period. You don't need an excuse to vote early. Visit your state election office website to find out whether they offer early voting.My Election Office
General Election: Nov 3, 2020
Polling hours on Election Day: Varies by state/localityMy Polling Place