DA Jason Williams says he won’t investigate abortion cases, other city leaders react to SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe v. Wade

Published: Jun. 24, 2022 at 10:39 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Some city officials were quick to react to Friday’s Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe vs. Wade. District Attorney Jason Williams and City Council President Helena Moreno called the decision ‘disturbing.’

Williams stood firm in his decision to not prosecute those who seek abortions or those who perform them, and rather stay focused on tackling the backlog of pending cases already on his desk.

“We are not about to start investigating the decisions that a woman makes with her body,” he said. “We have more cases queued up for trial that need to be resolved in the area of first-degree, second-degree murder, manslaughter, armed robbery.”

Williams called the Supreme Court’s decision “problematic” in that it would nearly triple the amount of work for prosecutors across the country. He added it would also be a waste of city resources to use what limited manpower and money available to investigate those who seek or perform abortions.

“In the middle of an unprecedented crime surge... now there is going to be a concerted push to add or use these already limited resources to investigate and police decisions that women are making with their bodies,” he said.

But can he choose not to prosecute these cases? Dr. Robert Collins, public policy professor at Dillard University, said the DA can decline any cases he wants, and there are no laws in place that could force him to prosecute.

“Under Louisiana law and under the law of most states, District Attorneys have a lot of discretion,” said Collins. “In some cases almost total discretion over which cases to prosecute and which cases not to prosecute. If the DA chooses not to prosecute a case, for whatever reason, that is his right. He is the elected prosecutor for this parish so he can simply decline to prosecute any cases.”

Council President Helena Moreno also reacted to the SCOTUS decision. In a tweet, she suggested the use of federal property in New Orleans as a way to house clinics or services.

“We have to be creative and find different types of options available,” said Moreno. “It is something that has been talked about within different circles on the federal level mostly.”

By using federal land, she said, abortions would be exempt from state law.

“The piece that gets a little tricky is about the physicians that would be able to practice there but we think we’ve actually found a way to do that piece as well,” she said.

Moreno said there are many federal properties in New Orleans and said she has had several conversations with officials at the White House.

But could it happen? Dr. Collins said there is a gray area, but that order would have to come from the President of the United States himself.

“I’m guessing because that’s a creative solution that a lot of people are thinking about, I’m guessing there are probably some governors, some mayors that are requesting that, but again the White House is going to have to make that decision,” he said.

Moreno said conversations are taking place already for creating travel funds for patients seeking abortion outside the state and defense funds for physicians.

“It has to be an all hands on deck-type of approach to try to figure out what type of out of the box-types of options it’s going to be,” she said.

When it comes to prosecuting abortion cases, Dr. Collins said the Attorney General could intervene by going to court and asking permission to prosecute these cases.

On Friday, AG Jeff Landry in a statement said:

“My office and I will do everything in our power to ensure the laws of Louisiana that have been passed to protect the unborn are enforceable, even if we have to go back to court.

As the chief legal officer for our State, I will continue defending Louisiana’s pro-life laws and working to ensure the health and safety of women and their babies.”

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