While GOP legislators rush to push new anti-abortion legislation, some Democratic prosecutors at both the state and local level are promising not to enforce restrictive laws.
Republican-controlled legislatures have moved with haste to pass a wave of controversial legislation severely restricting access to abortion, steamrolling ahead despite emotional pleas from Democrats and protesting constituents on the steps of statehouses. In a matter of weeks, however, Roe v. Wade is likely to be overturned by the Supreme Court. The focus will shift from the legislators to those who enforce them, or those who choose not to.
Since a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion was published, some district attorneys and generals have made their position on abortion restrictions public. In some cases, they have even pledged not to enforce restrictive laws in their respective states.
While district attorneys in Georgia and Texas, Louisiana, Texas, and Tennessee have pledged not to prosecute anyone seeking abortions, or providing the procedure, attorneys general in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Texas have also made the same promise. The issue is becoming a major concern for those who are running to become elected to these offices in the fall.
Sherry Boston is the Georgia's DeKalb County district attorney. Sherry represents parts of Atlanta and has vowed not to prosecute anyone for providing or receiving an abortion in the absence Roe. She claims that women will continue to undergo the procedure even if it is made illegal.
Boston states that it will make our communities less secure. "As the district attorney, who has taken an oath of protection for my community, it is important for me that policies are in place to do exactly that for the community I serve."
Georgia's legislature passed legislation in 2019 that would prohibit abortion once a fetal beat is detected. This can happen as early as six weeks into pregnancy. A federal judge blocked the law for violating Roe v. Wade's Supreme Court precedent. However, if the landmark ruling was overturned, it could take effect in the Peach state, possibly in a matter weeks.
Boston stated that she would not prosecute anyone seeking or providing abortions for more than six weeks. She cited the principle of prosecutorial discretion as the reason.
Boston claims that discretion is used "all the time." It can be used to divert or dismiss cases or to decline to prosecute certain crimes. Boston cites as an example, adultery, which is still a crime in Georgia. She says that she cannot imagine any of the 50 Georgia district attorneys bringing an adultery case to a criminal court.
Prosecutors may decline to prosecute some offenses to make way for others. For example, deferring prosecutions of non-violent offenses to address violent crime.
Louisiana's district attorney for Orleans Parish (where New Orleans is located) has used such reasoning to explain why he wouldn't prosecute abortion cases. He wrote days after the Supreme Court draft opinion was leaked that his office is "focused upon pursuing accountability and justice" for the most severe, violent crimes against our citizens.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams tweeted, "I cannot and won't shift the priority from combating shootings, rapes or carjackings into investigating the choices women make regarding their bodies." His office also stated that this sentiment applies to providers of abortion.
This comment was made as Republican legislators in the state passed a bill that would have made abortion murder. Williams responded by pointing to an article he wrote in Time magazine 2021 about the criminalization and criminalization of abortion, saying that he has made his position on the matter "abundantly crystal clear."
Williams wrote that "When people of color or people with low income are denied access health care, including prenatal care, as a result of prejudice" and that they are arrested, charged, and prosecuted for decisions made during, before, or after pregnancy it causes injustice that has a ripple effect on families, neighborhoods, and communities.
Texas' five district attorneys representing major cities such as Austin, Corpus Christi and San Antonio, along with portions of Houston, Dallas, have also pledged to not "prosecute and criminalize" personal healthcare decisions.
After the leak, Jose Garza, Austin's district attorney, stated that Travis County is safer when families and women can make their own healthcare decisions and have the freedom to choose the best for themselves.
After a Texas woman was convicted of murder for having self-managed her abortion, the group of district attorneys pledged to not prosecute anyone seeking abortions. Although the charges were dropped, there was more concern about whether women could be charged with seeking abortions. A Texas law has been prohibiting abortions for over eight months. It uses an unusual civil enforcement mechanism that allows private citizens to sue anyone who "aids and abets" another person with the procedure. Texas also has a trigger ban that will be in effect if Roe is repealed. This rule would make it a crime to perform an abortion.
Glenn Funk, the district attorney for Tennessee's Davidson County (where Nashville is situated), won the Democratic bid to re-elect him with a platform that stated he would not prosecute providers or women for "exercising your reproductive rights".