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Abortion Ruling Fallout Puts Prosecutors On the Spot

In the turmoil following last Friday's U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, protests spread to cities nationwide and at least 10 states effectively banned abortion, with more state bans expected in coming days and weeks, CNN reported.

Meanwhile, at least 84 district attorneys in 29 states, territories and Washington, D.C., pledged not to press criminal charges against patients or providers, setting up a new battle between blue-city prosecutors and red-state lawmakers, Politico reported.

Demonstrations for and against the 6-3 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health took place over the weekend and were expected to continue Monday, most of them peaceful but with some arrests and clashes with police reported in Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix and other cities.

Nine states now have outright bans on abortions, with varying exceptions or none at all. They are: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Wisconsin. In Ohio, a six-week ban went into effect went into effect following the Supreme Court decision Friday. A six-week ban in Texas went into effect last year. States with abortion bans expected to take effect in the coming days and weeks include Wyoming, Mississippi, Tennessee and Idaho.

The New York Times created a site that will track the legal status of abortion post-Roe in the coming weeks, state by state.

The public pledge by prosecutors not to criminally charge women and their healthcare providers was distributed by the group Fair and Just Prosecution, which said the officials signing the pledge represent jurisdictions covering 87 million Americans. The signatories include district attorneys in states like Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas — all Republican-controlled states with abortion “trigger bans” set to activate within a month.

This exercise in preemptive prosecutorial discretion sets up potential clashes, said University of North Carolina law professor Carissa Byrne Hessick, the director of the Prosecutors and Politics Project. “If a local prosecutor says they won’t bring these cases and the attorney general disagrees with that, depending on the state, they may have the power to take the cases away and pursue them,” she said. “And in states where they don’t already have the power, they can simply pass a law that allows them to do that.”

Another looming battleground is likely over attempts by some states to regulate their citizens' use of abortion pills, or medication abortion, by mail, the New York Times reports. Their use is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy after consulting with a doctor by video, phone or in person, or even by filling out an online form, from a state that allows abortion. Two Biden administration cabinet officials, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Heath and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, announced they would seek to protect the right to take the medications, but it is not yet clear where federal and state authority will end up.


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