As the third day of Senate hearings on President Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, had Republicans praising her reported pro-life personal beliefs Wednesday, dozens of elected prosecutors and attorneys general from across the nation issued a joint statement that they will not criminalize abortion even if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned.
In the letter, 64 prosecutors—which range from local prosecutors to state attorneys general—are clear that they will not prosecute people who elect to have an abortion or the doctors who carry out the procedure, “even if the protections of Roe v. Wade were to be eroded or overturned,” the letter reads.
The prosecutors specifically took aim at states like Idaho and Utah, which are the most recent to pass “trigger laws” that would automatically ban most abortions in the case that Roe v. Wade were overturned or if abortion rights were restricted by a future constitutional amendment.
According to the prosecutors, some state legislation attempting to limit abortion leaves unclear who would be held criminally responsible for breaking the laws—leaving people like the patient, doctors, nurses and even office receptionists potentially liable under some statutes.
“Our commitment to not prosecute women who obtain abortions and health care professionals who provide treatment . . . would hold even if the protections of Roe v. Wade was to be eroded or overturned,” the prosecutors wrote.
Some of the more high-profile prosecutors include Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general along with New York Attorney General Letitia James, while local leaders from traditionally red states have also signed on, like elected prosecutors from Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.
The letter was released by Fair and Just Prosecution, which bills itself as a network for newly elected judges to promote fairness and equity in the criminal justice system.
“Not all of us agree on a personal or moral level on the issue of abortion. And not all of us are in states where women’s rights are threatened by statutes criminalizing abortion,” the letter reads. “What brings us together is our view that as prosecutors we should not and will not criminalize healthcare 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.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice policy and research firm, ten states have passed laws since the Roe v. Wade ruling that would trigger the outlawing of the vast majority of abortions in their jurisdictions if the decision were to be overturned, while nine states still have their pre-Roe v. Wade abortion laws technically on the books, even though they are unenforceable because of the Supreme Court ruling. In nine other states, laws have been passed to restrict abortion that were deemed unconstitutional by courts but in theory could be enforced with a court order if Roe v. Wade was overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
While the prosecutors’ letter did not explicitly mention Barrett, it comes as her views on abortion have been thrust into the limelight during her nomination hearings. Barrett has reportedly signed at least two statements against Roe v. Wade in the past, and during Senate hearings Tuesday said “Roe is not a super-precedent,” though she added that would not necessarily mean it should be overruled. If Barrett goes on to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the highest court in the land would lean conservative by a 6-3 majority.