May 21, 2019
Women in Georgia's four largest counties may be protected from the state's recently-passed six-week abortion ban--which has been condemned as part of the Republican Party's recent ramped-up attack on reproductive rights--even if the law goes into effect next year.
The district attorneys of DeKalb, Cobb, Gwinnett, and Fulton counties all told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Monday that they have no intention of prosecuting women who obtain abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, citing concerns with the constitutionality of the so-called Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act (H.B. 481).
DeKalb D.A. Sherry Boston said the law is rife with "ambiguity and constitutional concerns," adding that she could not in good conscience prosecute women for obtaining abortion care--"otherwise currently a legal medical procedure," she said, which has been legal in the U.S. up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, since 1973.
"As a woman and mother, I am concerned about the passage and attempted passage of laws such as this one in Georgia, Alabama, and other states," Boston told the Journal-Constitution.
Critics of H.B. 481 were horrified earlier this month when state lawmakers passed the bill and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed it into law. Civil rights groups vowed to challenge the law in court, and abortion rights advocates say the GOP is passing increasingly extreme anti-choice restrictions in the hopes of convincing the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
Even though implementation may be delayed, women's rights advocates are still warning against allowing H.B. 481 to go into effect, especially considering its suggestion that women who obtain abortion care after six weeks could be prosecuted.
According to state Rep. Ed Setzler, the lead sponsor of H.B. 481, under the law, "women, doctors, nurses and pharmacists can be prosecuted under Georgia's criminal abortion statute, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, " reported the Journal-Constitution.
Regardless of the law, Gwinnett County D.A. Danny Porter agreed with Boston.
"As a matter of law (as opposed to politics) this office will not be prosecuting any women under the new law as long as I'm district attorney," Porter told the newspaper.
Acting D.A. John Melvin of Cobb County and Fulton County D.A. Paul Howard also said they would not seek criminal charges for women or medical professionals who administer abortion care.
Howard "has no intention of ever prosecuting a woman under this new law," the prosecutor's spokesperson said.
Some advocates called on other prosecutors to take similar stands against the extreme anti-choice bans which have recently passed in Alabama, Ohio, and Missouri.
\u201cWill any other DA's commit to not enforcing these unconstitutional #abortion laws?\n\n#WomensRightsAreHumanRights\n@Alyssa_Milano\n\nhttps://t.co/PSDFcsZn72\u201d— Rob Gorski \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6 (@Rob Gorski \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6) 1558378414
"We need more D.A.'s standing up like this," tweeted the racial justice group Color of Change. The group pointed to the story of Latice Fisher, a Mississippi woman who faces second-degree murder charges for the death of her child, shortly after the baby was born.
"Things would be a lot different if the District Attorney had never charged her in the first place," wrote Color of Change.
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