FILE — U.S. Supreme Court building

People walk outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, March 16, 2020. 

(The Center Square) — Dozens of elected prosecutors from around the country announced on Wednesday they would not enforce any laws criminalizing abortion as the confirmation of another U.S. Supreme Court justice looms.

Among the 62 signatories of the pledge released Wednesday are 10 state Attorneys General, including those from Oregon, Colorado, Minnesota, and New York.

The news comes as President Trump’s latest pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, federal judge Amy Coney Barrett, testifies before the U.S. Senate ahead of her much anticipated confirmation to the court.

Liberals have voiced concerns over whether Barrett may support overturning the court’s landmark decision of Roe v. Wade which established legal precedent for legalized abortion.

States such as Oregon have joined a 21-state lawsuit challenging a rule change by the Trump administration affecting access to reproductive health care under Title IX.

Since last year, at least a dozen states have passed bans or limits on abortion which carry criminal charges and fines. Most of these cases have received challenges in federal courts which remain in limbo.

“Not all of us agree on a personal or moral level on the issue of abortion,” the prosecutors wrote in a joint statement. “What brings us together is our view that as prosecutors we should not and will not criminalize health care 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.”

Prosecutors argue that many state laws restricting abortion do not exempt survivors of rape, incest, and domestic violence. Laws that do provide such exemptions do not take into account that many survivors will not or cannot report cases of sexual abuse, prosecutors argued further.

“Resources in our criminal justice system are inherently limited,” prosecutors wrote. “In our view, resources are better utilized to prevent and address serious crimes that impact our community rather than enforcing laws such as these that divide our community, create untenable choices for women and healthcare providers, and erode trust in the justice system.”

In July, Tennessee enacted a “heartbeat” law imposing restrictions on performing abortions, including gestational bans as early as six weeks. Those convicted under the law can face prison time of up to 15 years and fines of up to $10,000.

Last year, Missouri lawmakers banned abortion starting at around eight weeks of pregnancy. Menstrual cycles occur every 21 to 35 days and can last from two to seven days, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The Missouri law includes no exceptions for cases of rape or incest and doctors who perform abortion may face between up to 15 years in prison.

In Alabama, a law passed last year imposes penalties which include prison time of more than 10 years and up to 99 years for doctors who perform abortions for any patient.

Under a Georgia law passed last year, district attorneys may bring criminal charges, including imprisonment, against any person involved in performing or assisting with an abortion. The law does not make clear whether patients seeking abortions will be exempt from criminal charges. 

Staff Reporter

Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly.