In the wake of Friday’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, 83 elected prosecutors from around the nation – including King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg – committed to use their well-established discretion and refuse to prosecute those who seek, assist in or provide abortions, calling the criminalization of abortion care “a mockery of justice.”
Satterberg has served as King County Prosecuting Attorney since first being elected in 2007, and is not seeking reelection. He lives in Normandy Park.
These elected prosecutors – collectively representing nearly 87 million people from 28 states and territories and the District of Columbia, including nearly 27 million from 11 states where abortion is now banned or likely to be banned – argue in a joint statement that using limited criminal justice resources to prosecute personal healthcare decisions runs counter to their obligation to pursue justice and promote public safety.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision is an affront to 50 years of settled jurisprudence and a fundamental attack on access to reproductive healthcare,” Satterberg said. “While Washington State has strong protections for abortion rights independent of the United States Constitution, there will be continued efforts to not only weaken those laws but also potentially punish Washington State healthcare providers who serve clients from states where abortion services are now illegal. The Court today also signaled a potential future path where other critical privacy interests – same-sex marriage, contraception, sexual privacy – may be next on the federal chopping block. As King County’s Prosecuting Attorney, I want to reassure the people of King County that my commitment on the issue of reproductive rights is unwavering: I have never—and will never—use my discretion to criminalize personal medical decisions. As a private and concerned citizen, I will also continue to support other organizations fighting for human dignity and fundamental privacy from governmental overreach into our lives.”
Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, abortion has been or will soon be banned in at least 26 states. Among the most draconian and dangerous statutes areTexas’ trigger law and an Alabama law under which those who perform an abortion could face life sentences in prison. A recent law in Oklahoma makes it a felony to provide abortions, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Bans in Missouri, Tennessee and Utah carry sentences of up to 15 years for providers of abortion care.
The signatories make clear that they approach the issue of abortion from varied personal perspectives but come together in agreement that enforcing abortion bans is a threat to many in their communities: “As elected prosecutors, when we stand in court we have the privilege and obligation to represent the people. All members of our communities are our clients – they elected us to represent them and we are bound to fight for them as we carry out our obligation to pursue justice. Our legislatures may decide to criminalize personal healthcare decisions, but we remain obligated to prosecute only those cases that serve the interests of justice and the people.”
The statement also emphasizes how abortion bans disproportionately harm victims of sexual abuse, rape, incest, human trafficking and domestic violence, and that many anti-abortion laws either do not provide exceptions for victims of sexual violence or force survivors to choose between reporting their assault or carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term.
The signatories include Attorneys General Thomas J. Donovan, Jr. (Vermont), Keith Ellison (Minnesota), Maura Healey (Massachusetts), Edward E. Manibusan (Northern Mariana Islands), Dana Nessel (Michigan), Karl Racine (District of Columbia) and Phil Weiser (Colorado), as well as elected prosecutors from states with trigger laws or laws banning abortion, such as Wesley Bell (St. Louis County, Mo.), Danny Carr (Jefferson County, Ala.), John T. Chisholm (Milwaukee County, Wis.), Shameca Collins (6th Judicial District, Miss.), John Creuzot (Dallas County, Texas), Glenn Funk (Nashville, Tenn.), José Garza (Travis County, Texas), Joe Gonzales (Bexar County, Texas), Mark Gonzalez (Nueces County, Texas), David Leyton (Genesee County, Mich.), Karen McDonald (Oakland County, Mich.), Brian Middleton (Fort Bend County, Texas), Jody Owens (Hinds County, Miss.), Eli Savit (Washtenaw County, Mich.), Daniella Shorter (22nd Judicial District, Miss.), Carol Siemon (Ingham County, Mich.) and Matthew J. Wiese (Marquette County, Mich.).
Today’s SCOTUS decision is a fundamental attack on access to reproductive healthcare. As King County Prosecutor, my commitment on this issue is unwavering: I have never — and will never — use my discretion to criminalize personal medical decisions. https://t.co/N5I0to2d5V
— King County Prosecutor (@KCProsecutor) June 24, 2022
UPTHEGROVE ISSUES STATEMENT
King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove issued the following statement Friday in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling:
“I am outraged by today’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade and deny women their constitutional right to manage their own health care.
“For 50 years, a woman’s right to choose an abortion was a federal constitutional right. That is no longer the case.
“Although Washington state law protects a woman’s right to an abortion, we must recognize that this seismic change will have repercussions throughout our country and will disproportionality impact women of color and those surviving on a low-income.
“County Executive Constantine has announced $1 million in emergency funding to ensure King County is ready to help those women who turn to us for help.
“Although the Supreme Court justices have turned their backs on women, we will not.”