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Sunday, June 26, 2022

If Roe collapses, some DAs won’t enforce anti-abortion laws

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( Associated Press) — As the Supreme Court appears on track to overturn the constitutional right to abortion, progressive prosecutors across America are declaring they will not enforce some of the GOP-led anti-abortion laws. States have waited years to implement.

The move is sure to rankle Republican lawmakers and governors, with nearly half the states prepared to ban abortion if Roe v. The Wade – 1973 decision establishing the constitutional right to abortion – weakens or overturns. Many of those Republican-led states have abortion clinics in large metro areas represented by Democratic district attorneys.

Anti-abortion laws in the US largely shy away from explicitly punishing pregnant women and instead target physicians who may face lengthy prison sentences and their medical licenses for performing the procedure illegally. Huh. But some abortion restrictions will penalize those who assisted with an abortion and others may require women who achieved the process to testify against those who helped her.

Yet the enforcement of these laws will largely rest on the shoulders of district attorneys, who exercise wide discretion. who are to be charged with offences. Currently, it is not uncommon for elected prosecutors in Democratic counties to voice their resistance to bringing charges under various GOP-backed mandates—ranging from voting restrictions, the limitation of some protest activity, aimed at LGBTQ people. from legislation, and restrictions on mask requirements throughout COVID. -19 outbreak.

In 2020, more than 70 prosecutors in blue districts across the country campaigned that they would not bring charges under increasingly stringent laws that states have passed against abortion because they “should not or should not criminalize health decisions”. should do.”

And so far, a growing number of elected prosecutors in Democratic counties are promising they will not pursue criminal charges that have been placed within the harshest of abortion restrictions.

Michigan has become a special battleground for who will enforce the state’s abortion laws. Seven Democratic prosecutors there vowed they would not enforce the state’s long-dormant ban on the procedure, while two Republican prosecutors have joined abortion opponents in demanding an end to the recent suspension of the 1931 statute. are.

The law, which makes it a crime to aid in abortion, has had no practical effect for decades since abortion was legalized nationwide.

“Those archaic laws are unconstitutional and dangerously vague, leaving open the ability to criminalize doctors, nurses, anesthetists, health care providers, office receptionists – virtually anyone who performs either of these medical procedures or assists. Even the patient himself could face criminal liability under these statutes,” prosecutors for the Detroit, Lansing, Flint and Ann Arbor areas wrote in a letter.

In GOP-controlled Tennessee, Democratic District Attorney Glenn Funk of Nashville issued a statement in early May, just hours after the leaked draft opinion was published. Funk promised that he would stand on his previous position to prosecute neither medical practitioners who performed abortions nor any pregnant women seeking the procedure.

“I am shocked that this attack on a woman’s personal health decisions is at risk. I stand by my prior statement,” Funk said the day before he won the Democratic primary election against two opponents, who declined to say whether he would charge doctors.

Funk’s long-time resistance to enactment of the state’s abortion laws, as well as several others, has already drawn backlash from Tennessee Republican leaders. Late last year, the General Assembly passed a law allowing the attorney general to interfere in local matters—including abortion allegations. The law allows the state’s legal head to ask the Tennessee Supreme Court to appoint a provisional prosecutor after the district attorney has “permanently and expressly” refused to charge a case.

To date, the attorney general’s office says it has not exercised the new law. Meanwhile, the state’s top Republican leader — who oversees every major political office — has been silent on Funk’s defiant stance, and his office has declined to answer follow-up questions.

The National Right to Life Committee, which advocates for abortion restrictions, developed model legislation in the event of Roe’s reversal, which allows the state attorney general to file charges in abortion cases when local prosecutors refuse. will authorize.

Chief prosecutors representing some of Texas’ most populous counties recently issued a joint statement urging elected prosecutors to oppose advance charges that would “criminalize personal health decisions.”

Like Tennessee, Texas is among 13 states that have so-called trigger laws — measures that would ban most abortions and take effect almost automatically, should the nation’s highest court overturn the row. The decision is expected to be issued by the end of June or early July.

Prosecutors wrote, “Many of these acts have the potential to promote efforts to criminalize patients, medical professionals, healthcare providers, and others assisting in these medical procedures within reach of Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Parts of Houston are included.” ,

The statement comes just weeks after a Texas woman was arrested by a grand jury after she was convicted of manslaughter for allegedly “deathing a man … by self-induced abortion”. . Starr County District Attorney Gotcha Alan Ramirez moved quickly to dismiss the charges, Pointing out that the woman has not violated any state laws. Still, the incident only reinforced warnings from abortion rights advocates that prosecutors would be critical of how anti-abortion laws are exercised at the local level.

Such decisions come as these lawyers often have to win elections to take on the role of top prosecutors in their community. While many Republican candidates have publicly stated their intention to fully implement strict anti-abortion laws, Democratic candidates are hoping their resistance will be enough to entice enough voters in key states.

In Arizona, Democrat Julie Gunningle immediately announced she would not prioritize prosecuting doctors or pregnant women to become Maricopa County Attorney, which includes the metro Phoenix area. Chris Mayes, the only Democrat to run for Arizona attorney general, has also promised that he will not prosecute abortions in a state that has both a pre-state law that makes all abortions illegal and a new one signed by Republican Gov. law. Doug Ducey bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Both seats were previously held by Republicans.

In Missouri, which has just one clinic—located in St. Louis—that provides abortions for the entire state, progressive prosecutors have refrained from issuing public statements promising to defy anti-abortion laws enacted by Republican state lawmakers. hesitate. Instead, they warn that the state’s trigger law will lead to a “slippery slope.”

If Roe v. Wade is removed, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell, a Democrat, said, “It’s going to be open season and it’s going to have a huge impact on poor people—blacks and browns but even Poor white people are also going to be adversely affected.”


Associated Press writers Bob Christie in Phoenix and Jim Salter in St. Louis, Missouri contributed to this report.

World Nation News Desk
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