Some Georgia prosecutors refuse to enforce abortion law, AG warns of 'dereliction of duty'

Attorney General Chris Carr said refusal to enforce the statute "undermines the rule of law."

Updated: June 29, 2022 - 11:22pm

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Some Georgia district attorneys say that if a federal court allows Georgia's fetal heartbeat law to take effect, they won't prosecute violators.

However, the state's top prosecutor said such an approach "undermines the rule of law."

Last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, which established abortion as a constitutional right, could allow Georgia to reinstitute House Bill 481, the Living Infants Fairness Equality Act. The measure, commonly called the "Heartbeat Bill," would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected — usually after about six weeks.

In 2019, U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones blocked the law because the U.S. Supreme Court had previously upheld Roe v. Wade. In September 2021, an appeals court issued a stay pending Friday's Supreme Court ruling.

Following the Supreme Court ruling, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said the state is asking the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to reverse a district court decision on the heartbeat bill.

In a statement, Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Sherry Boston said criminalizing abortion "undermines public safety and public trust" and vowed not to prosecute anyone who violates HB 481.

"Prosecutorial discretion is not a new concept," Boston said in a statement. "From determining whether to divert a case to an accountability court, to prioritizing violent offenses over non-violent, or deciding not to proceed with charges at all, prosecutorial discretion is central to our work and a responsibility I do not take lightly.

"To be clear, I'm not 'picking and choosing' which laws I will and will not enforce based simply upon my own beliefs," Boston added. "I reject the notion that we, as elected prosecutors, should blindly enforce or 'rubber-stamp' laws without introspection and question regarding the greater good of the community. As a matter of context, adultery remains a crime in Georgia, but I can't imagine any of my DA colleagues in the state presenting that charge for indictment. For the record, nor will I."

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has also made a similar proclamation. However, a spokesperson for Carr said deciding not to enforce a specific law is "a dereliction of duty."

"We have no doubt they are sincere in their pledge to not do their jobs," Kara Richardson, a Carr spokesperson, told The Center Square. "Democrat District Attorneys have proven it by refusing to enforce the law on criminals, and we have seen the disastrous effects.

"It's a dereliction of duty for District Attorneys and Solicitors to preemptively pick and choose which laws they will enforce," Richardson added. "It undermines the rule of law and erodes our system of self-governance."