DENVER — Eight prosecutors from Colorado are among 84 from around the country who pledged in an open letter Friday to not prosecute abortion cases following the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
The letter was released following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to remove federal protections for those seeking an abortion.
"Not all of us agree on a personal or moral level on the issue of abortion. But we stand together in our firm belief that prosecutors have a responsibility to refrain from using limited criminal legal system resources to criminalize personal medical decisions," the letter says. "As such, we decline to use our offices’ resources to criminalize reproductive health decisions and commit to exercise our well-settled discretion and refrain from prosecuting those who seek, provide, or support abortions.
The list of prosecutors from Colorado, who were joined by 76 others from around the country, includes:
- Christian Champagne
- District Attorney, 6th Judicial District, Colorado
- Michael Dougherty
- District Attorney, 20th Judicial District (Boulder), Colorado
- Alexis King
- District Attorney, 1st Judicial District, Colorado
- Brian Mason
- District Attorney, 17th Judicial District, Colorado
- Beth McCann
- District Attorney, 2nd Judicial District (Denver), Colorado
- Gordon McLaughlin
- District Attorney, 8th Judicial District, Colorado
- Alonzo Payne
- District Attorney, 12th Judicial District (San Luis), Colorado
- Phil Weiser
- Attorney General, Colorado
>Read the full letter below:
"Criminalizing abortion will not end abortion; it will simply end safe abortions, forcing the most vulnerable among us — as well as medical providers — to make impossible decisions," the letter says. "Abortion bans will isolate people from the law enforcement, medical, and social resources they need. When individuals know that they or someone they love could be investigated and prosecuted for having an abortion, they are far less likely to call for help in the event of an emergency."
Though Roe v. Wade was overturned, Colorado took steps earlier this year to secure abortion rights in the state.
A state law called the Reproductive Health Equity Act, passed this year, guarantees access to abortion in Colorado.
The bill passed the state House by a vote of 40-24 on March 14 and the Senate by a vote of 20-15 on March 23.
Under the Reproductive Health Equity Act (HB22-1279), which was signed into law on April 4:
- Individuals have a right to use or refuse contraception.
- Pregnant women have a right to give birth or to have an abortion.
- A fertilized egg, embryo or fetus does not have rights under the laws of the state.
Because of the state law, pledging not to prosecute abortion cases should not be an issue, though 9NEWS reached out to these eight prosecutors to ask if they're OK with other law enforcement not enforcing laws they disagree with, like the large-capacity magazine ban or previous COVID restrictions.
We received these replies:
- Phil Weiser, Attorney General, Colorado: “All prosecutors have to make decisions about enforcement priorities. The attorney general is not in a position to second guess a fellow prosecutor’s decisions, and ultimately the public makes decisions about prosecution priorities by who they vote for as their district attorney or attorney general.”
- Beth McCann, District Attorney, 2nd Judicial District (Denver), Colorado: "Police officers and district attorneys have great discretion as to whom they choose to arrest, or not and which cases to file, or not file. We exercise that discretion every day and that discretion is based on factors such as the facts of a case, the allocation of resources, and the will of the people we serve."
- Gordon McLaughlin, District Attorney, 8th Judicial District, Colorado: "I believe fully and firmly in a woman’s right to control her own healthcare decisions and am incredibly disappointed with the Supreme Court ruling today that removes a fundamental human right. While Colorado currently protects abortion rights in statute, it is not enshrined in our state constitution, and any subsequent Legislature could overturn that law. Many states will now trigger criminal penalties for those who seek abortions and those - like medical providers - who assist them in obtaining healthcare. These laws will disproportionately impact the most vulnerable members of our community, including victims of sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crime victims I am sworn to protect. Such laws would erode community trust and make it far less likely victims will report crimes committed against them. Elected District Attorneys are given the discretion to allocate limited resources toward efforts which will best protect their local communities and criminalizing women's healthcare decisions would run directly counter to the pursuit of justice, equity, community safety, and fundamental rights which voters elected me to fulfill. I will never allow private healthcare decisions to be criminalized in Larimer and Jackson counties."
- Michael Dougherty, District Attorney, 20th Judicial District (Boulder), Colorado: “The law in Colorado was changed to protect the right to safe abortion services and reproductive healthcare. But there is work to be done across the country. This country should not return to an era where individuals seeking safe healthcare do so at the threat of criminal prosecution. Criminalizing abortion won’t stop people from having abortions; it will just stop them from receiving safe and professional healthcare. Abortion bans will, also, have a disproportionate impact on victims of rape, incest, and domestic violence. I am grateful that, under Colorado law, reproductive health care is available for those who seek it – without fear of criminal prosecution.”
- Alexis King, District Attorney, 1st Judicial District, Colorado: "We agree, this is not an issue in Colorado and as other states consider how to react to the Dobbs decision and the potential for abortion bans are brought forward in state legislatures, elected DAs are in a unique position to advocate for legislation that supports public health and recognizes the priorities of the criminal system.
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