Atlanta-area DAs: No, we won't prosecute women for getting abortions

The State of Georgia’s new abortion law may be postponed from going into effect as it works its way to the Supreme Court but metro Atlanta District Attorneys are taking a preemptive stance. They will not prosecute a woman for getting an abortion.

Frankly, I didn’t know that prosecuting women getting abortions was part of the Georgia law but the prosecutors say that there is technical language in the Georgia House bill that calls for the potential of charging them with murder.

Due to the technical language of HB 481, district attorneys could potentially seek a murder charge against someone who violates the heartbeat law, the AJC reported Friday.

But that was not the intent of the law, according to its lead sponsor, Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth. Rather, he said, women, doctors, nurses and pharmacists can be prosecuted under Georgia’s criminal abortion statute, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

House Bill 481 was signed into law by Governor Kemp May 7 and goes into effect January 1, 2020, if it is not blocked by the courts. Georgia’s bill, like most other states’ “heartbeat” bills, bans abortion after six weeks. Heartbeat bills are an attempt by state legislatures to push the issue to the Supreme Court in hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade, which allows abortion up until 24 weeks of pregnancy.

District Attorneys in the four most populous counties surrounding the Atlanta metro area (Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb and DeKalb) came together to release statements that compliance with that part of the new law will not be carried out.

“As District Attorney with charging discretion, I will not prosecute individuals pursuant to HB 481 given its ambiguity and constitutional concerns,” DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston said in a statement. “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.

“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,” Gwinnett County DA Danny Porter said in a statement. He specified that he does not think it would be possible to prosecute a woman for either murder or unlawful abortion if she got an abortion after six weeks.

In Cobb County, Acting DA John Melvin took a similar approach. He interpreted the law to suggest that a woman would not be committing murder if she received an abortion. He said women could “absolutely not” be prosecuted under the unlawful abortion statute.

Fulton County’s DA went a step further and said his office will not prosecute women or abortion providers. Cobb County’s Acting DA, though, left open the possibility to prosecuting doctors or nurses on a case-by-case basis. The statements from the four offices show some inconsistencies in the expectations of enforcement of the new law.

The backlash from the pro-abortion crowd began immediately after Governor Kemp signed the bill into law. The president of the regional Planned Parenthood office pledged to devote its energy and resources to replacing those in office who supported the bill. And there has been an increase in the number of women coming forward to run for office. Monday six women announced their intentions to run for office in the state House, Senate and local government. They are being described as the second wave of women challenging Republican incumbents. Just days after the state legislature’s session ended, seven women, the first wave, announced they are launching campaigns against Republicans currently in office.

WIN List is supporting the women candidates. A Democrat woman seeking WIN List’s support must support abortion. It’s a state version of EMILY’s List, a national PAC that supports Democrat women with financial support during campaigns. WIN List is dedicated to “changing the face of power in Georgia” according to its website.

“The 14 new women who were elected in 2018 weren’t enough to turn back this year’s efforts to ban abortion in Georgia,” WIN List Executive Director Melita Easters said. “A tough abortion law was a key plank of last year’s GOP platform. There is still much work to do as we seek to finish the job of turning Georgia blue.”

Good luck with that, ladies.