A group of 83 prosecutors — including those in states where a “trigger ban” will take effect after Roe v. Wade was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court — said they will not file charges against women seeking abortions and medical professionals who provide the procedures.
The prosecutors, along with the nonprofit group Fair and Just Prosecution, released the joint statement hours after the Supreme Court made its decision on Friday to overturn the landmark decision and restrict abortions in 26 states.
“Not all of us agree on a personal or moral level on the issue of abortion,” according to the joint statement released by the 83 prosecutors. “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 prosecutors emphasized how the ban would disproportionately harm victims of human trafficking, rape, incest and domestic violence and force women to carry an unwanted pregnancy.
They added criminalizing abortion not only would end safe abortions, but also would impede medical professionals and law enforcement from performing their jobs and protecting victims.
Among the group of prosecutors who signed the pledge include Travis County District Attorney José Garza in Texas, who urged women to continue to seek medical help.
Texas is among 13 states that would automatically ban abortion in the first and second trimesters within 30 days of the Supreme Court’s decision.
“While I am aware that our state’s ‘trigger law’ goes into effect in 30 days, making performing an abortion a felony, I will not force women into the shadows, especially when they need life-saving medical care,” Garza said in a statement. “No matter what the law says, I implore you: please, seek medical help if you need it. A prosecutor’s job is to protect public safety, and to enforce this law will not only fail to promote or protect public safety but will also lead to more harm.”
Six prosecutors in Michigan– Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon, Marquette County Prosecutor Matthew Wiese, Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit, Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeffrey Getting and Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton– also signed the pledge.
“Michigan’s anti-abortion statutes were written and passed in 1931,” the Michigan prosecutors said in a joint statement. “There were no women serving in the Michigan legislature. Those archaic statutes are unconstitutionally and dangerously vague, leaving open the potential for criminalizing doctors, nurses, anesthetists, health care providers, office receptionists – virtually anyone who either performs or assists in performing these medical procedures. Even the patient herself could face criminal liability under these statutes.
“We believe those laws conflict with the oath we took to support the United States and Michigan Constitutions, and to act in the best interest of the health and safety of our communities. We cannot and will not support criminalizing reproductive freedom or creating unsafe, untenable situations for health care providers and those who seek abortions in our communities.”
Other states, however, moved quickly to enforce the ban.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt issued an opinion on Friday that “triggered” a house bill and became the first state in the country to effectively end abortion.
Under the house bill, no abortion can be performed in Missouri except in cases of medical emergencies.
“My Office has been fighting to uphold the sanctity of life since I became attorney general, culminating in today’s momentous court ruling and attorney general opinion,” Schmitt said in a statement. “I will continue the fight to protect all life, born and unborn.”