By BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Sixty-three of the nation’s elected prosecutors, including 10 state attorneys general, released a joint statement Wednesday morning pledging not to criminalize abortion even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
The prosecutors said their decision is in keeping with their oath of “protecting the integrity of our justice system and upholding the Constitution and rule of law.”
The group said their statement was partly prompted by rising concerns over the passage of laws in recent years in at least a dozen states that they say impose broad restrictions on abortion and are “ambiguous or silent as to whom they would hold criminally responsible.” Under the laws, patients, medical professionals and health care providers could possibly be criminally charged and imprisoned if the Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark decision giving women the Constitutional right to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction is struck down.
“Our commitment to not prosecute women who obtain abortions and health care 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,” the prosecutors said in their statement.
The statement comes amid the backdrop of confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, the conservative appeals court judge President Donald Trump has picked to fill the High Court seat of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was the veteran of the Supreme Court’s liberal wing. Barett’s confirmation would heavily tilt the Supreme Court to the right by a count of six to three.
“Elected prosecutors are entrusted with immense discretion to protect the well-being and safety of everyone in their community and to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law,” said Miriam Krinsky, executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, which organized the joint statement. “In this time of crisis — when so many in our community are grappling with the challenges of a global pandemic, economic downturn, and tremendous uncertainty — elected prosecutors have the opportunity to lead and to offer peace of mind to women and health care professionals who might otherwise be placed in the untenable position of choosing between the exercise of personal health care choices and the threat of criminal prosecution.”
Among the signatures on the statement are California Attorneys General Xavier Becerra, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Delaware Attorney General Kathleen Jennings.
The group represents a fraction of the more than 2,400 elected prosecutors in the nation.
“It is disturbingly clear that reproductive rights are under an unprecedented assault at both the national level and in many states, and my office has fought tirelessly to defend women’s rights against those assaults,” Jennings said in a statement.
Jennings said she is grateful that Delaware and several other states had the foresight to codify Roe v. Wade into state laws and to permanently protect women’s right to safe and legal abortion.
“But I am clear-eyed that this fight goes on beyond our state’s borders,” Jennings said. “Draconian laws that unconstitutionally restrict or outright abolish abortion make us less safe, not more, and the disinformation campaigns that warp the facts and denigrate women who choose to terminate a pregnancy are shameless.”
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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