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State GOP Battles Prosecutors Who Won't Handle Abortion Cases

Republican lawmakers see a flaw in their states’ near-total abortion bans: Some local prosecutors won’t enforce them. Republicans in Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Texas — frustrated by progressive district attorneys who have pledged not to bring charges under their state’s abortion laws — have introduced bills that would allow state officials to either bypass the local prosecutors or kick them out of office if their abortion-related enforcement is deemed too lenient, reports Politico. One Texas bill would allow the state attorney general or a private individual to ask a court to remove a district attorney who fails to prosecute abortion-related offenses and other “crimes of violence.” In Georgia, legislators want a prosecutorial oversight commission that could discipline or remove local prosecutors who demonstrate a “willful and persistent failure to perform his or her duties.” A bill in South Carolina would give the attorney general the power to prosecute abortion cases — something under the purview of local district attorneys. In Indiana, proposed legislation would allow a legislatively appointed special prosecutor to enforce laws when a local prosecutor declines.

The mounting tension between Republican lawmakers and local prosecutors over abortion is part of a broader fight over diverging approaches to criminal justice, seen in battles over drug laws, property crimes and other offenses. As more prosecutors, particularly in progressive areas in red states, win elections by breaking with the decadeslong tough-on-crime mindset, conservative state officials say they need to rein in their excesses. “Whatever issue we’re talking about — whether it’s marijuana, abortion, enforcing homicide statutes, enforcing whatever the law is — the law is on the books, and the law is supposed to be applied equally across the board,” said Republican Indiana Sen. Aaron Freeman. “If we’re just going to basically ignore the Constitution and our republic and just do whatever the hell we want, well, that’s a society that scares the hell out of me.” “The individual exercise of discretion is the foundation of our legal system. This is a huge overreach by the legislatures,” warned David LaBahn of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. “When we’re looking at a series of cases — and this is not hypothetical, it’s very real, because we’re dealing with backlogs in so many places right now — should they investigate a phone call from someone saying they think someone had an abortion, versus a documented homicide or case of child abuse? If you have limited resources — should you pour everything into the first one? Of course not! That’s why you have discretion."

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