Nashville DA Glenn Funk joins list of prosecutors pledging not to enforce laws criminalizing abortion
Demonstrators hold banners in an abortion rights rally outside of the Supreme Court as the justices hear oral arguments in the June Medical Services v. Russo case on March 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. The Louisiana abortion case is the first major abortion case to make it to the Supreme Court since Donald Trump became President. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)
Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk has joined a list of more than 60 elected prosecutors who have pledged not to enforce laws criminalizing abortion in a collective statement released Thursday.
The statement pledged a commitment from prosecutors in 30 states and the District of Columbia to “not prosecute women who obtain abortions and health care professionals who provide treatment is not predicated on these concerns alone – and, indeed, would hold even if the protections of Roe v. Wade were to be eroded or overturned.”
Funk is the only Tennessee prosecutor to have thus far signed onto the statement, which includes District Attorneys and state Attorneys General.
Funk last month submitted an affidavit in federal court that said: “With regard to reproductive issues, the criminal law must not be used by the State to exercise control over a woman’s body. As long as I am the elected District Attorney for the 20th Judicial District, I will not prosecute any woman who chooses to have a medical procedure to terminate a pregnancy or any medical doctor who performs this procedure at the request of their patient.”
The move brought immediate criticism from Gov. Bill Lee, who signed the measure into law.
Funk’s filing involves a challenge to a new law requiring abortion clinics to tell women seeking medication abortions that the process is reversible, a position abortion providers and medical experts have called “false and misleading.”
The law has been temporarily halted by U.S. District Judge William L. Campbell while litigation remains underway.
The law includes criminal penalties for abortion providers, including incarceration and fines, who fail to follow it. A separate portion of the law banning most abortions in Tennessee after a fetal heartbeat can be detected is being separately challenged. That portion also includes criminal penalties and fines for healthcare providers who have been found to willfully violate it.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman declared unconstitutional a 2015 law requiring a 48-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion. A separate “heartbeat” abortion law signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee in June is currently being challenged in two separate cases.
Tennessee’s so-called Human Life Protection Act, which Lee signed into law in 2019, would trigger an abortion ban in the state should the U.S. Constitution be amended to give states final authority on abortion — or if the Supreme Court overturns or alters Roe v. Wade, its landmark decision legalizing abortion.
The measure would make it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion if the landmark Supreme Court decision is overturned in whole or part.
None of the measures include criminal or civil penalties for women seeking an abortion.
Thursday’s statement was organized by Fair and Just Prosecution, a left-leaning organization that focuses on training and organizing newly elected prosecutors on less punitive approaches to criminal justice.
“In this time of crisis – when so many in our community are grappling with the challenges of a global pandemic, economic downturn and tremendous uncertainty – elected prosecutors have the opportunity to lead and to offer peace of mind to women and healthcare professionals who might otherwise be placed in the untenable position of choosing between the exercise of personal healthcare choices and the threat of criminal prosecution,” said “Elected prosecutors are entrusted with immense discretion to protect the well-being and safety of everyone in their community and to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law,” said Mirian Krinsky, executive director.
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