DA Sullivan takes stand against abortion-related prosecutions

  • Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 6/28/2022 5:04:58 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan is one of 89 officials from around the country who has signed on to a letter pledging not to pursue abortion-related prosecutions.

The letter was organized by the group Fair and Just Prosecution, and its signatories also include Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Berkshire County District Attorney Andrea Harrington, Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey and Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan.

“I respect women’s right to have control over their bodies,” Sullivan said Tuesday.

“I’m proud to sign onto this statement. Though reproductive rights are protected in Massachusetts currently, last week’s Supreme Court decision calls into question many rights we once thought were settled rights,” Sullivan said in a statement. “Our office will not take part in efforts that prevent women from having control over their bodies and interfere with their ability to make private medical decisions.”

The letter describes the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which previously guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion, as “deeply troubling,” and the prosecutors pledge to not use their offices’ resources to prosecute reproductive health decisions.

“Enforcing abortion bans runs counter to the obligations and interests we are sworn to uphold. It will erode trust in the legal system, hinder our ability to hold perpetrators accountable, take resources away from the enforcement of serious crime, and inevitably lead to the retraumatization and criminalization of victims of sexual violence,” the letter states. “Criminalizing abortion will not end abortion; it will simply end safe abortions, forcing the most vulnerable among us — as well as medical providers — to make impossible decisions. Abortion bans will isolate people from the law enforcement, medical, and social resources they need.”

In the wake of the court’s decision, multiple states have criminalized abortion.

Sullivan said he anticipates confrontations with out-of-state prosecutors over abortion in the future and said he would not plan on cooperating with them.

Sullivan described the Supreme Court’s ruling to overtun Roe as a “sad decision.”

“This seems to be just a political flip of the switch,” he said.

Sullivan also said he expects other rights, such as gay marriage, may be under threat from the court and he noted Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion where he urged the re-examination of the cases that established the constitutional rights to contraception, engage in consensual homosexual sex and for same-sex couples to marry.

“Justice Thomas wants to erode further civil liberties and rights,” Sullivan said.

In a related development, U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and the Beyond Roe Coalition scheduled a strategy session on Wednesday at noon in Boston to discuss the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade and next steps.

Representatives from ACLU Massachusetts, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and Reproductive Equity Now are scheduled to attend.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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