Elected prosecutors from a long list of states vowed to uphold the landmark abortion ruling in Roe v. Wade and use their "immense discretion" to refuse charging violations of restrictive abortion bans.
"As elected prosecutors with charging discretion, we choose not to prosecute individuals pursuant to these deeply concerning laws," the June statement, released by the group Fair and Just Prosecution, read.
"Legal precedent, as established by the highest court in the land, has held for nearly 50 years that women have a right to make decisions about their own medical care including, but not limited to, seeking an abortion. Enforcement of laws that criminalize healthcare decisions would shatter that precedent, impose untenable choices on 3 victims and healthcare providers, and erode trust in the integrity of our justice system."
The signatories included district attorneys from several states, as well as 11 attorneys general from California, Vermont, Delaware, Massachusetts, Nevada, Maryland, Michigan, Washington, D.C., Illinois, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.
The statement came as the nation intensified its debate over abortion and 2020 Democratic candidates formulated ways to counter a multi-state pro-life agenda that could reach the Supreme Court.
"Not all of us agree on a personal or moral level on the issue of abortion. And not all of us are in states where women's rights are threatened by statutes criminalizing abortion," the attorneys also said.
"What brings us together is our view that as prosecutors we should not and will not criminalize healthcare 2 decisions such as these – and we believe it is our obligation as elected prosecutors charged with protecting the health and safety of all members of our community to make our views clear."
The statement was the latest indication that a series of pro-life victories would have to overcome resistance both within and outside of the government. State and federal abortion restrictions -- including "heartbeat" legislation, clinic regulations, and surgical abortion bans -- have already faced legal challenges from groups like Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
While some state and federal laws have faced defeat in the courts, the ultimate decision might come from the nation's highest court as neither side appeared ready to back down.
On Wednesday, the issue once again dominated national conversation as 2020 Democratic candidates appeared to attack their frontrunner's position on federal funding for abortion.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, a perceived moderate among a slew of progressive candidates, supported the Hyde Amendment for decades before reversing his position on Thursday.