Prosecutors want to pick and choose
Mississippi prosecutors are believed to have some discretion over which cases to prosecute.
For example, when the evidence is weak, it is a waste of court time and resources to pursue a conviction that prosecutors are unlikely to enforce.
However, it is another matter whether a prosecutor, based on personal beliefs or political considerations, decides that a law will not be prosecuted at all against someone who breaks it. In such a scenario, the prosecutor no longer acts as a member of the judiciary, but as the legislature, effectively deciding what is legal and what is not.
That’s exactly the line two Mississippi prosecutors crossed when they joined 90 state attorneys and attorneys general from across the country in promising they would not prosecute those who request, perform, or assist anyone with an abortion.
The two district attorneys — Jody Owens in Hinds County and Shameca Collins in southwest Mississippi — might disagree with the US Supreme Court‘s recent decision overturning constitutional protections for abortions. You may not like the Mississippi law that is now in effect as a result of this court decision, prohibiting abortion except in cases of rape or when the mother’s life is in danger.
But whether prosecutors like a law shouldn’t matter. The job they are committed to is enforcing all the laws of the state, not just those they agree with.
The law in question is not some archaic holdover that Mississippi was never able to clean up. It was enacted 15 years ago on the precise condition that it would only come into force if Roe v. Wade, the 1973 law legalizing on-demand abortion was repealed.
It is also red herring, at least in Mississippi, to assume that the law would result in women who perform abortions being prosecuted. The law is clear that only providers of illegal abortions are guilty of a crime.
Prosecutors’ blanket refusal to enforce a law sets a terrible precedent. If they can ignore a law prohibiting abortion, what other laws could they ignore? Such select prosecutors create not only the impression, but the reality, that Mississippi law enforcement is arbitrary. The application depends on where you live. Your attitude is a step towards anarchy.
If these prosecutors believe that abortion should be left to the pregnant woman’s sole discretion, then they should lobby the legislature to repeal the 2007 law. Until then, they have taken an oath, without favor following what is written in the books.
If they don’t want to keep that oath, they should get off the public payroll and do something else with their law school.