On Friday the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade, sending the decision of whether to legalize abortion or not to the states. Texas already had a “trigger law” in place that would ban abortion at the moment of fertilization except in rare cases to save the life of a pregnant patient or prevent “substantial impairment of major bodily function.” Dallas County’s DA does not intend to cooperate.
Once the Texas “trigger law” goes into effect, 30 days after the Supreme Court ruling, the penalty in Texas, for anyone who performs, induces or attempts an abortion where “an unborn child dies as a result of the offense” will be guilty of a first-degree felony — punishable by not less than five years or up to life in prison and a civil penalty of not less than $100,000. Until that 30 days expires, abortions are banned after six weeks of pregnancy with no exception for rape or incest. The fine for aiding or abetting an abortion is up to $10,000.
At least one Texas prosecutor, however, doesn’t intend to prosecute abortions.
On Friday afternoon, Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot released a statement about how his office will handle abortion cases. “I want women across Texas, and especially here in Dallas County, to rest assured that my office will not stand in the way of them seeking the health care they need,” Creuzot said.
In Texas, District Attorneys have discretion as to who they prosecute. It states this on The Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton’s, website. Specifically, it says, “[i]n Texas, the county or district attorney has original jurisdiction to pursue alleged violations of the law. These prosecutors are granted discretion in determining which cases will be prosecuted. The Attorney General has no role or oversight of their decisions. We can assist local prosecutors in criminal matters, but only at their request.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told prosecutors across Texas immediately after the Supreme Court released its decision, that they could begin to criminally prosecute abortions. He has no power, however, to make the Dallas County DA do that.
People immediately began responding to DA Creuzot’s tweet: “You are not supposed to bring your personal beliefs into carrying out your job and following the law…regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on. Just because I don’t agree with certain laws doesn’t mean I don’t have to abide by them.”
“Then we will prosecute and replace him/her with someone who will enforce the new law! You don’t make laws, you are supposed to ENFORCE them!”
“Is there anything this DA -will-prosecute?”
Travis County DA José Garza has also suggested he will not prosecute abortion cases. Austin, Texas is in Travis County. Garza said “[n]o matter what the law says, I implore you: please, seek medical help if you need it. A prosecutor’s job is to protect public safety, and to enforce this law will not only fail to promote or protect public safety but will also lead to more harm.”
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The Supreme Court sent the decision on whether to legalize abortion to the states. It appears, however, that at least in Texas, it could be county by county. The issue for women seeking an abortion in Dallas and Travis Counties will be finding a physician who is willing to perform the abortion or prescribe the medications for a medical abortion. This could get very interesting…it already is.