Renegade D.A.’s Who Defy State Mandates Are Often Freedom’s Last Line of Defense
Immediately after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision eliminating constitutional protections for the right to abortion, states with socially conservative leanings began restricting access to the procedure. Just as quickly, dissenting local officials announced they wouldn’t enforce restrictions. Anybody paying attention could have predicted the battles and noted that the sides flipped from their stances in earlier conflicts. But in the mix of this partisan combat is a hint that, while letting localities opt out of restrictive laws from further up the political food chain hands nobody the victories they want, it could make it easier for the people of a deeply divided country to live in peace.
“As elected prosecutors, when we stand in court, we have the privilege and obligation to represent ‘the people,'” reads a letter organized by Fair and Just Prosecution, an organization promoting ideologically progressive approaches to criminal justice, and signed by dozens of prosecutors. “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. Criminalizing and prosecuting individuals who seek or provide abortion care makes a mockery of justice; prosecutors should not be part of that.”
Some signees come from states like California and New York where they’re unlikely to be put to the test. But among them are district attorneys in Texas, which even before Dobbs privatized anti-abortion efforts, Missouri, which rushed to implement a restrictive law, and Alabama, where anti-abortion laws on the books are presumably back in effect. Independently, New Orleans Parish Sheriff Susan Hutson said she would not jail anybody who violated Louisiana’s abortion laws. The New Orleans City Council voted to deny the use of city funds for anti-abortion enforcement.
As you might guess, opponents of abortion aren’t thrilled.
“Some of the same Soros-funded prosecutors accused of going easy on criminals are now refusing to enforce the state abortion laws taking effect after the fall of Roe v. Wade,” hyperventilated a report in The Washington Times.
Texas legislators might let prosecutors target alleged lawbreakers outside their own counties.
“I expect the urban county DAs to resist it. And that’s why we need to come up with alternative remedies,” commented State Rep. Briscoe Cain, a Republican for whom abortion is the defining issue.
But we’ve been here before, with the sides taking mirror-image positions. In 2020, when mostly Democratic state officials imposed lockdowns, curfews, and mask mandates, I pointed out that “[c]ounty sheriffs in California, New York, North Dakota, Oregon and elsewhere say they’ll have nothing to do with enforcement efforts and spar with governors who resent such independence.”
The refuseniks at that time were mostly conservative-leaning, as are the local off
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