AUSTIN, Texas — It didn’t take long for district attorneys across the state to voice their opinions on the newly announced opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision to overturn the landmark decision handed down in 1973 drew both criticism and praise, sparking protests across the United States.
“Making abortion illegal will not end abortions; it will simply end safe abortions for too many,” said Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza in a statement. “Threatening women who seek abortion services and their medical providers with prosecution will only drive women to seek out dangerous alternatives and avoid necessary medical care, which will lead to higher rates of preventable maternal death.”
Garza said that the county’s continued focus would be remain on “holding people who commit acts of violence” and allowing women to “make personal health care and reproductive decisions without the threat of interference from the state.”
“While I am aware that our state’s ‘trigger law’ goes into effect in 30 days, making performing an abortion a felony, I will not force women into the shadows, especially when they need life-saving medical care,” said Garza. “No matter what the law says, I implore you: please, seek medical help if you need it. A prosecutor’s job is to protect public safety, and to enforce this law will not only fail to promote or protect public safety but will also lead to more harm.”
In a joint statement Garza, John Creuzot, of Dallas County, Joe Gonzales, of Bexar County, Mark Gonzalez, of Nueces County and Brian Middleton of Fort Bend County plus several more prosecutors across the United States expressed their stance on the decision to prosecute women who undergo abortions.
“Not all of us agree on a personal or moral level on the issue of abortion,” the statement reads. “But we stand together in our firm belief that prosecutors have a responsibility to refrain from using limited criminal legal system resources to criminalize personal medical decisions. As such, we decline to use our offices’ resources to criminalize reproductive health decisions and commit to exercise our well-settled discretion and refrain from prosecuting those who seek, provide, or support abortions.”
“As elected prosecutors, when we stand in court, we have the privilege and obligation to represent “the people,” the statement reads. “All members of our communities are our clients — they elected us to represent them and we are bound to fight for them as we carry out our obligation to pursue justice. Our legislatures may decide to criminalize personal health care decisions, but we remain obligated to prosecute only those cases that serve the interests of justice and the people.”
“Criminalizing and prosecuting individuals who seek or provide abortion care makes a mockery of justice; prosecutors should not be part of that.”
In North Texas, the largest counties — Dallas and Tarrant — district attorneys see the law differently. Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson released a statement insisting all cases would ultimately get reviewed.
“My oath and that of everyone in my office is to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States and Texas,” Wilson said. “Prosecutors do not make the law— we follow it. We followed Roe v. Wade when it was the law and we will follow Texas state law now.
Wilson, who announced she wasn’t seeking reelection in 2022, became the first woman elected to the position.
“Every case presented to the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office will be reviewed,” she said. “If the facts warrant prosecution, then the case will be presented to a grand jury for consideration. As prosecutors, we always know that our primary duty under law is not to convict, but to see that justice is done, Art. 2.01, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.”
Besides the joint statement, Creuzot shared a separate message on social media signaling his support.
“I want women across Texas and especially here in Dallas County to rest assured that my office will not stand in the way of them seeking the healthcare they need,” he said. “Bans on abortions disproportionately impact the poor, women of color and other vulnerable populations and endanger public safety — which goes against the very core of policies I was elected to put in place.”
Attorney General Ken Paxton didn’t waste any time following the court’s decision to issue an advisory alerting prosecutors they could immediately pursue criminal “prosecutions based on violations of Texas abortion prohibitions predating Roe that were never repealed by the Texas Legislature.”
“Now that the Supreme Court has finally overturned Roe, I will do everything in my power to protect the unborn and uphold the state laws duly enacted by the Texas Legislature,” said Paxton in his advisory.