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Prosecutors Pen Letter Pledging Not to Charge Abortion Providers, Women

As Congress considers filling the seat vacated by late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—and speculation about what might happen to precedents set after Roe v. Wade abounds—prosecutors and attorneys general across the country have pledged not enforce laws criminalizing abortion.

supreme court 546279 1920The list of legal professionals includes dozens of attorneys from New York to California and many places in between. In a letter outlining their stance, the prosecutors point out that recently enacted restrictions across the U.S. already appear unconstitutional based on Roe v. Wade, and they will not criminally prosecute anyone associated with abortions under any circumstances.

“Many of us share those legal views, but our commitment to not prosecute women who obtain abortions and healthcare professionals who provide treatment is not predicated on these concerns alone–and, indeed, would hold even if the protections of Roe v. Wade were to be eroded or overturned,” reads the letter.

According to the coalition, Tennessee passed a “heartbeat” law in July, which if violated, comes with potential imprisonment up to 15 years and a $10,000 fine. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, “Trigger bans” placing restrictions on abortion in Idaho and Utah carry felony charges and prison time.

“Not all of us agree on a personal or moral level on the issue of abortion. And not all of us are in states where women's rights are threatened by statutes criminalizing abortion,” the letter continues. “What brings us together is our view that as prosecutors we should not and will not criminalize healthcare decisions such as these–and we believe it is our obligation as elected prosecutors charged with protecting the health and safety of all members of our community to make our views clear.”

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“One key takeaway from Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings: they revealed little about her views on major legal issues like healthcare, abortion rights, voting rights or gun rights, as she mostly declined to answer questions on those issues.”

The signers include Attorneys General Xavier Becerra, of California, Letitia James, of New York, Thomas J. Donovan, of Vermont and Phil Weiser, of Colorado, where a reproductive rights law is on the upcoming November ballot.

The American Civil Liberties Union notes Proposition 115 would make it illegal for doctors to perform an abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy and it claims pregnant women would be robbed “of the ability to make their own personal medical decisions without taking into consideration their personal situations.”

“With federal protections for reproductive rights now precariously uncertain, it is more urgent than ever that the states safeguard access to abortion care,” according to the advocacy group. “But in Colorado, that access is under a real, imminent threat … Prop. 115 is a one-size-fits-all mandate that fails to acknowledge every pregnancy is unique—and shows no compassion for what families face in unimaginably complicated circumstances.”

The prosecutors’ letter closes by pointing out they have discretion with respect to filing charges and notes the 50 years of legal precedent permitting abortions.

“Enforcement of laws that criminalize healthcare decisions would shatter that precedent, impose untenable choices on victims and healthcare providers, and erode trust in the integrity of our justice system,” reads the letter. “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.”

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