COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein joined more than 80 prosecutors nationwide who will “not prioritize” prosecuting abortion.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the nearly 50-year-old constitutional right to abortion, Klein announced in a Monday news release that filing criminal charges against those who seek, assist in or provide abortions is not a priority for his office.
“Using limited criminal justice resources to prosecute personal healthcare decisions runs counter to my obligations to pursue justice and promote public safety,” Klein said. “We will continue to use our prosecutorial discretion to put the safety and security of Columbus residents first by allocating our resources to target the most serious crimes facing our community.”
In a letter signed by 87 law enforcement officials across the U.S., including Klein, prosecutors said they decline to use their offices’ “limited criminal legal system resources” — in a system they said is already overburdened — to prosecute people for terminating a pregnancy.
Criminalizing abortion procedures, the prosecutors wrote, will lead to greater public distrust of law enforcement and “erode” prosecutors’ ability to “hold perpetrators accountable” by diverting them from focusing on violent crime.
“To best promote public safety, prosecutors must be perceived by their communities as trustworthy, legitimate, and fair — values that would be undermined by the enforcement of laws that criminalize deeply personal decisions, harm those most in need of our help, and force unnecessarily difficult and traumatizing decisions on many in our community,” prosecutors wrote in their letter.
Under Ohio law, abortion is now illegal once fetal cardiac activity is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The so-called “heartbeat bill” took effect hours after the nation’s highest court voted 6-3 to overturn Roe v. Wade, ending a preliminary injunction that had blocked the enforcement of the bill since its enactment in 2019.
Two “trigger” bills that would ban abortion outright remain pending in the Ohio General Assembly, and like the state’s six-week abortion ban, there are no exceptions for rape or incest — a move that Klein and other prosecutors called “unconscionable.”
“Laws that revictimize and retraumatize victims go against our obligation as prosecutors to
protect and seek justice on behalf of all members of our community, including those who are
often the most vulnerable and least empowered,” prosecutors wrote. “Criminalizing and prosecuting individuals who seek or provide abortion care makes a mockery of justice; prosecutors should not be part of that.”