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Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and four of the state's district attorneys joined more than 60 prosecutors nationwide in pledging to decline prosecuting abortion-related cases if Roe v. Wade is overturned or eroded.
The pledge was made in a letter released Wednesday by Fair and Just Prosecution, a network of reform-minded prosecutors. According to the letter, state laws that attack provisions of Roe, like so-called "heartbeat" bills and new restrictions on clinic design, could land women and health care workers in jail.
Healey said the push to weaken Roe and enact restrictive laws across the country would disempower and take away rights from women.
"This is not about public safety, this is about disempowering and taking rights away from women," Healey said. "It unfortunately has been part of the agenda of the right for a long time and I just think that it's significant that so many are standing in solidarity to say we're not gonna let that happen on our watch."
In addition to Healey, the Massachusetts signatories are: Berskhire County District Attorney Andrea Harrington, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan and Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan.
"Not all of us agree on a personal or moral level on the issue of abortion," the letter reads. "And not all of us are in states where women's rights are threatened by statutes criminalizing abortion. 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."
In addition, the letter signers indicated that they joined the pledge over issues of prosecutorial discretion, protecting victims of rape and abuse, and marshaling limited staff and budgets.
"In our view, resources are better utilized to prevent and address serious crimes that impact our community rather than enforcing laws such as these that divide our community, create untenable choices for women and healthcare providers, and erode trust in the justice system," the letter reads.
The letter comes as the Senate holds confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, she declined to call Roe a "super-precedent" but did not say whether she would vote to roll back or overturn the ruling.
While a professor at Notre Dame, Barrett did sign an ad that said, "It's time to put an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade."
Though the letter does not mention the conservative jurist by name, it does mention efforts to weaken protections afforded under the Roe ruling.
"Legal precedent, as established by the highest court in the land, has held for nearly 50 years that women have a right to make decisions about their own medical care including, but not limited to, seeking an abortion," the letter reads. "Enforcement of laws that criminalize healthcare decisions would shatter that precedent, impose untenable choices on victims and healthcare providers, and erode trust in the integrity of our justice system."
Coney Barrett's nomination has reanimated the effort to get the ROE Act passed in Massachusetts. The legislation would enshrine into law the protections outlined in the Supreme Court decision.
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