ASHEVILLE - Some district attorneys in Western North Carolina are reacting to the historic June 24 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade and allowing individual states to make their own laws on abortion.
Many states are already poised to make an abortionillegal.
“I oppose the criminalization of abortion," said Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams, a Democrat, in a prepared statement to the Citizen Times June 24.
"The criminalization of abortion would erode trust in the rule of law and would end a long-settled right to privacy and bodily autonomy that has been the law of the land for more than 50 years."
District attorneys are the top criminal prosecutors in every county.
Williams, who recently won a local primary race by a narrow margin — beating out Courtney Booth by 101 votes — said he'll continue to focus his prosecutorial discretion on violent crimes, drug crimes, and crimes against children, "over prosecutions that do not protect the public but instead create distrust and alienation."
Williams is one of 83 elected prosecutors representing 87 million people from 28 states who signed a statement released June 24 by Fair and Just Prosecution, committing their discretion to "refuse to prosecute those who seek, assist in or provide abortions."
“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a jarring betrayal of generations of Americans who have come of age with the right to make decisions about their own bodies,” Miriam Krinsky, executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution said in the statement.
“By cruelly and callously stripping away a 50-year-old fundamental right, a majority of the Court has undermined the legitimacy of the criminal legal system and trust in the rule of law."
Williams also noted his membership in the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys Reproductive Health Advisory Committee, which released a statement on its stance after the leak of the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision in May.
“Forcing prosecutors into the public health space erodes the institutional integrity of the profession and destroys the trust of communities we took oaths to protect," The APA statement said. "This compromises public safety. Our responsibilities to our communities, both to safeguard and to inform, are paramount. Threatening our communities with criminal sanctions for reproductive healthcare is an injustice.”
I oppose the criminalization of abortion and will use my discretion to prioritize violent crimes, as opposed to laws that create distrust and alienation. pic.twitter.com/Sc0U08406M
— Todd Williams (@DAToddWilliams) May 12, 2022
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WNC DAs including Seth Banks, Scott Reilly, Ted Bell and Andrew Murray — all of whom are Republicans — did not return messages left by the Citizen Times on June 24.
Republican DA Ashley Welch, who covers District 43 representing the seven westernmost counties, said through a spokesperson she would not comment on the decision.
N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein a Democrat, immediately weighed in on the June 24 decision, confirming North Carolina residents who can have pregnancies will continue to have reproductive rights.
“I have a message for the women of North Carolina: You still have a legal right to an abortion in our state," Stein said in a news release and on Twitter.
"North Carolina state law protects women's reproductive freedoms, even after the Supreme Court today stripped women of their right to an abortion under the Constitution by overturning Roe v. Wade. If we want to keep our freedoms under state law, then we have to elect state officials who commit to protecting them.”
I have a message for the women of North Carolina: you still have a legal right to an abortion in our state. North Carolina state law protects women's reproductive freedoms. 1/
— Josh Stein (@JoshStein_) June 24, 2022
North Carolina law states it is lawful for a woman to have an abortion within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
State law also allows for abortions after 20 weeks in the case of a medical emergency, a condition in which a woman faces death or impairment.
"Roe v. Wade protected pregnant women against laws that would preclude or unduly restrict access to abortion services until the point of fetal viability," Stein said.
"The U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe, however, does not curtail access to abortions in North Carolina that are expressly permitted by the above-quoted statutes. That protection could only be removed by a change in state law."
Andrew Jones is Buncombe County government and health care reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at @arjonesreports on Facebook and Twitter, 828-226-6203 or email@example.com. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: WNC District Attorneys, state AG react to Roe v. Wade overturn