AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned Roe v. Wade and returned decisions about abortion restrictions to the states, an alarming new trend has emerged on the political left: government officials declaring their refusal to enforce, and in many cases actively working to undermine, pro-life laws passed and enacted by duly elected representatives of the people. Many of these same Democrats have tirelessly insisted for years that Republicans are an “existential threat to democracy,” and yet are now openly denying the legal authority of the Supreme Court and calling for the destruction of the rule of law itself.
As the pro-life movement gained momentum in recent years, Republican legislatures in many states passed what would come to be known as “trigger laws.” These laws laid out restrictions on abortion which were not permitted under the legal framework established by Roe, but which would go into effect almost immediately in the event Roe were overturned, thus eliminating the need to wait for a new legislative session to introduce and pass pro-life legislation. Missouri became the first of those states to enact such a law just hours after the Dobbs decision last Friday, touching off a fresh wave of outrage from the left.
Soon thereafter, the left’s “Plan B” for executing an end-run around the Supreme Court and state legislatures came into full view as dozens of local elected officials began announcing that they would not be enforcing pro-life state laws. Just hours after the decision was released, more than 80 elected prosecutors signed a joint statement saying that they would “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.” While many of these officials preside in states like California that are at no risk of passing pro-life laws, many like Bexar County, Texas, District Attorney Joe Gonzales and Nashville, Tennessee District Attorney Glenn Funk do not, raising the prospect that state laws outlawing abortion could in effect be neutralized by liberal prosecutors flouting the state legislature and creating “abortion safe zones.” In total, the officials who signed on to the letter represent more than 87 million Americans. Notably, Biden Attorney General Merrick Garland failed to condemn the rebellion against the rule of law, saying only that the Justice Department would “work tirelessly to protect and advance reproductive freedom.”
Liberal mayors and other local elected officials have also indicated that they intend to help, rather than hinder these prosecutors’ efforts to defy state laws. In Wisconsin, Madison mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announced that police would not arrest any abortion providers within city limits, despite a state trigger law criminalizing abortion. Austin, Texas mayor Steve Adler and Cincinnati, Ohio mayor Aftab Pureval have issued similar declarations, while Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrel and New York City Mayor Eric Adams promised to make their cities “abortion rights sanctuaries,” inviting women from other states to travel there to have abortion procedures.
At the same time, activist judges have attempted to block the implementation of abortion bans and trigger laws, often without any apparent legal reason for doing so. In Kentucky, Utah, and Louisiana, a single judge placed an injunction on abortion restrictions for the entire state, forcing the state government to sue for re-instatement of pro-life laws. Pro-abortion groups have also asked courts to issue similar injunctions in states like Florida and Idaho. As justification for blocking pro-life laws, judges in these states have often claimed that their state constitutions protect a “right to privacy” and therefore a right to abortion despite there being no mention of abortion in the state constitution – the very same sort of reasoning that the Supreme Court rejected in Dobbs.
Elected Democrats at every level have encouraged or taken part in this blatant assault on the authority of the Supreme Court, in many cases condoning violence against pro-life groups and encouraging Americans to defy the ruling en masse. Progressive darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) joined protestors outside the Supreme Court last Friday and described the Court as “illegitimate,” calling for people to get “into the streets.” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) echoed Ocasio-Cortez’s sentiment, saying “the hell with the Supreme Court—we will defy them.”
Other Democrats even called for the restructuring of the Court itself, with Massachusetts Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren telling ABC that the Court had “burned whatever legitimacy they may still have had,” and calling on Congress to increase the number of justices. Warren and other Democrats have also called for a legislative end-run around the Dobbs decision by proposing abortion clinics in National Parks and other federal lands – an unprecedented move that would funnel federal tax dollars to fund abortion procedures. In addition, they’ve urged President Biden to declare an “abortion national health emergency” to open up funds for states that will continue to permit unrestricted abortion.
In light of these rebellions by elected Democrats, some Republicans have promised to fight back by empowering state officials to prosecute local officials for refusing to enforce the law, or allowing district attorneys who would enforce pro-life laws to prosecute violations outside of their jurisdictions. Yet even with more powerful enforcement mechanisms, Democrats have shown that they are unlikely to give up so easily – and that they are willing to take the country down with them.
It may thus be that the downfall of Roe was only the beginning of a greater and far more consequential battle, with millions of yet-unborn lives and democracy itself hanging in the balance. If the past 50 years are any indication, though, the pro-life movement is well-prepared for such a fight, and equally determined to prevail.
Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @Shane_Harris_