A full 85 elected prosecutors “collectively representing over 89 million people from 29 states and territories and the District of Columbia, including over 27 million from 12 states where abortion is now banned or likely to be banned” signed onto a new joint statement pledging not to prosecute people for receiving, providing, or helping with an abortion, no matter the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
That description of how many people are represented by these prosecutors is drawn from a press release put out by Fair and Just Prosecution, whose executive director, Miriam Krinsky, organized the joint statement. The Supreme Court decision at issue means that state officials are now free to restrict abortion according to their wishes, no matter the health consequences for their constituents. Following the release of the decision, the process of imposing harsh, new restrictions on abortion quickly began.
Over a dozen states had already put so-called trigger bans on abortion in place that were set to go into effect in the event Roe was overturned. Some of these trigger bans, which have rare exceptions, required certain procedural steps before becoming active, but officials quickly jump-started that process. “Within minutes of the high court’s ruling, Attorney General Eric Schmitt issued an opinion to the Missouri Revisor of Statutes that triggers parts of a 2019 law, effectively ending abortion in the state of Missouri,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
As for the prosecutors’ joint statement, signatories serve in both “blue” and “red” states, from California and New York to Missouri and Alabama. The Missouri signatory is Wesley Bell, prosecuting attorney of St. Louis County. (The position of “prosecuting attorney” is roughly equivalent to that of “district attorney” and similar roles.) Considering the avowedly anti-abortion positions held by state officials in Missouri and other locales from which certain joint statement participants hail, clashes between local and state authorities could be imminent.
“Not all of us agree on a personal or moral level on the issue of abortion,” the prosecutors’ joint statement says. “But we stand together in our firm belief that prosecutors have a responsibility to refrain from using limited criminal legal system resources to criminalize personal medical decisions. As such, we decline to use our offices’ resources to criminalize reproductive health decisions and commit to exercise our well-settled discretion and refrain from prosecuting those who seek, provide, or support abortions.”
The statement also addresses — in a broad sense and a specific one — how prosecuting people in connection to abortion simply doesn’t serve community interests. “Prosecutors are entrusted with immense discretion,” the group said. “With this discretion comes the obligation to seek justice. And at the heart of the pursuit of justice is the furtherance of policies and practices that protect the well-being and safety of all members of our community… Enforcing abortion bans runs counter to the obligations and interests we are sworn to uphold. It will erode trust in the legal system, hinder our ability to hold perpetrators accountable, take resources away from the enforcement of serious crime, and inevitably lead to the retraumatization and criminalization of victims of sexual violence… Criminalizing and prosecuting individuals who seek or provide abortion care makes a mockery of justice; prosecutors should not be part of that.” Read more at this link.
Featured image: Lorie Shaull, available under a Creative Commons license