LAWRENCE - In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision today to overturn Roe v. Wade, Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez has joined 82 other elected prosecutors from around the nation who are committed to use their well-established discretion and refuse to prosecute those who seek, assist in or provide abortions, calling the criminalization of abortion care “a mockery of justice.” These elected prosecutors – collectively representing nearly 87 million people from 28 states and territories and the District of Columbia, including nearly 27 million from 11 states where abortion is now banned or likely to be banned – argue in a joint statement that using limited criminal justice resources to prosecute personal healthcare decisions runs counter to their obligation to pursue justice and promote public safety.
“The right to make a very personal decision is no longer available to many Americans,” Valdez said. “My office cannot and will not devote time and resources to pursue cases that erode public safety and compromise public health. Prosecutors have a duty and the authority to exercise discretion to pursue only cases that serve the community’s interest. Criminalizing this personal healthcare decision does not serve our community’s interest. Therefore, I have signed the pledge that my office will not criminalize those who seek or provide abortion.”
Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, abortion has been or will soon be banned in at least 26 states. Among the most draconian and dangerous statutes are Texas’ trigger law and an Alabama law under which those who perform an abortion could face life sentences in prison. A recent law in Oklahoma makes it a felony to provide abortions, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Bans in Missouri, Tennessee and Utah carry sentences of up to 15 years for providers of abortion care.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a jarring betrayal of generations of Americans who have come of age with the right to make decisions about their own bodies,” said Miriam Krinsky, Executive Director of Fair and Just Prosecution, the organizer of the statement. “By cruelly and callously stripping away a 50-year-old fundamental right, a majority of the Court has undermined the legitimacy of the criminal legal system and trust in the rule of law. With many states now seeking to criminalize those who seek, perform and receive abortion care, elected prosecutors are the last line of defense in protecting patients and providers from criminal charges. At this frightening and dark moment, we desperately need the bold leadership demonstrated by these signatories – and hope to see far more prosecutors across the country join this chorus.”
The signatories make clear that they approach the issue of abortion from varied personal perspectives but come together in agreement that enforcing abortion bans is a threat to many in their communities: “As elected prosecutors, when we stand in court we have the privilege and obligation to represent the people. All members of our communities are our clients – they elected us to represent them and we are bound to fight for them as we carry out our obligation to pursue justice. Our legislatures may decide to criminalize personal healthcare decisions, but we remain obligated to prosecute only those cases that serve the interests of justice and the people.”
The statement also emphasizes how abortion bans disproportionately harm victims of sexual abuse, rape, incest, human trafficking and domestic violence, and that many anti-abortion laws either do not provide exceptions for victims of sexual violence or force survivors to choose between reporting their assault or carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term.
The signatories include Attorneys General Thomas J. Donovan, Jr. (Vermont), Keith Ellison (Minnesota), Maura Healey (Massachusetts), Edward E. Manibusan (Northern Mariana Islands), Dana Nessel (Michigan), Karl Racine (District of Columbia) and Phil Weiser (Colorado), as well as elected prosecutors from states with trigger laws or laws banning abortion, such as Wesley Bell (St. Louis County, Mo.), Danny Carr (Jefferson County, Ala.), John T. Chisholm (Milwaukee County, Wis.), Shameca Collins (6th Judicial District, Miss.), John Creuzot (Dallas County, Texas), Glenn Funk (Nashville, Tenn.), José Garza (Travis County, Texas), Joe Gonzales (Bexar County, Texas), Mark Gonzalez (Nueces County, Texas), David Leyton (Genesee County, Mich.), Karen McDonald (Oakland County, Mich.), Brian Middleton (Fort Bend County, Texas), Jody Owens (Hinds County, Miss.), Eli Savit (Washtenaw County, Mich.), Daniella Shorter (22nd Judicial District, Miss.), Carol Siemon (Ingham County, Mich.) and Matthew J. Wiese (Marquette County, Mich.).
The full statement and list of signatories are available here.