Eight Commonwealth’s Attorneys pledged that they will not enforce any laws criminalizing abortions. The pledge which was signed by over 60 prosecutors and state attorneys general expresses concern over attempts to pass laws limiting abortion. The Fair and Just Prosecution (FJP) organization published the pledge on October 14, as Congress holds confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
“[O]ur commitment 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,” the document states.
“It’s very shocking that they would abdicate their responsibility as state’s attorneys to support laws that were legitimately passed by the General Assembly and have been on the code of Virginia, many of them for extended periods of time,” Virginia Society for Human Life President Olivia Turner said.
“And should any new laws be enacted by the General Assembly, the Commonwealth’s Attorneys are suggesting that they know better than the elected officials for the people of Virginia,” Turner said.
Heritage Foundation Legal Fellow and former prosecutor Zack Smith told The Virginia Star that the pledge calls for prosecutors to use prosecutorial discretion which normally is meant to allow prosecutors to consider cases on an individual basis.
“This [pledge] just fits into the larger pattern of [prosecutors] substituting their judgement for the judgement of the state legislatures and basically saying they’ll refuse to enforce any laws that they personally disagree with,” Smith said.
“These are not traditional law-and-order prosecutors. These are really left-leaning ideologues who are, they say it on their website, seeking to fundamentally transform our criminal justice system.”
“Laws that revictimize and retraumatize victims are unconscionable,” the pledge states. “It is a prosecutor’s obligation to protect and seek justice on behalf of all members of our community, including victims who are often the most vulnerable and least empowered. The wise exercise of discretion suggests focusing prosecutorial resources on the child molester or rapist, and not on prosecuting the victim herself, or the healthcare professionals who provide that victim with needed care and treatment.”
The Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorneys signing the document are: Buta Biberaj (D-Loudoun), Parisa Dehghani-Tafti (D-Arlington), Steve Descano (D-Fairfax), Stephanie Morales (D-Portsmouth), Joseph Platania (D-Charlottesville), Bryan Porter (D-Alexandria), Shannon Taylor (D-Henrico), and Gregory Underwood (D-Norfolk).
“You’re seeing it in major strongholds,” Turner said. “[These are] places that already have indicated a strong bias towards opposing our protective rational pro-life legislation.”
Smith said many FJP prosecutors have campaigns heavily financed by liberal donors. Smith said liberal donor George Soros funds the Justice and Public Safety PAC (JPSP). In 2019, JPSP gave Dehghani-Tafti $621,145, and it gave Descano $601,369, according to The Virginia Public Access Project. Smith said that amounts to 70 percent of Dehghani-Tafti’s total fundraising, and 72 percent of Descano’s fundraising.
Smith said, “Both of those were far in excess of what either of their opponents raised, who were sitting incumbents at the time.”
The pledge could apply to laws already moving through Virginia courts, Turner said.
One section of the pledge lists statutes from multiple U.S. states. The document states, “The recent and ongoing enactment of restrictive laws demonstrates the ways that reproductive rights have been, and will continue to be, under assault, and the willingness of state legislatures around the nation to criminalize these personal healthcare decisions – as well as actions by healthcare professionals.”
“If it happens that Roe v. Wade might be overturned, this is part and parcel of an agenda on the left to maintain Virginia as an abortion haven, ” Turner said. “To make sure that whatever happens with the law on abortions, Virginia will be a place where abortions are allowed to happen without restriction.”
“You notice the timing of the statement was the last day of the Supreme Court hearings for Judge [Amy] Coney Barrett. As a result, one can only presume, since we know there’s an effort underfoot to pass an amendment to the Virginia Constitution making abortion legal without restriction in Virginia, this is part of that same conversation,” Turner said.
Turner added, “It’s definitely part and parcel of the machine being ginned up right now to turn Virginia into an abortion state like New York.”
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Email tips to [email protected].