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Some Ohio prosecutors won't enforce state's new abortion ban

Zach Klein, Columbus city attorney, outside the Ohio Statehouse
Andy Chow
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Zach Klein, Columbus city attorney, outside the Ohio Statehouse

Prosecutors in the two counties that make up half of all the state’s abortions said they won’t prosecute violations of Ohio’s new six-week abortion ban.

Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley, both Democrats, have signed onto a letter with dozens of prosecutors and city attorneys throughout the nation, saying they won’t seek charges for those who perform or pursue abortions.

O'Malley is also the president of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association. Klein said he and others are “gravely concerned about the future in a post-Roe world.”

The latest Ohio Abortion Report shows medical facilities in Cuyahoga and Franklin counties perform about half of the state’s reported abortions.

Ohio’s new law makes abortion illegal at about six weeks into a pregnancy, before many people know they are pregnant.

“We’re not going to prosecute these cases because they are not a priority for our office. We are focused on non-violent crimes, destruction and non-violent offenders who have no regards to victims or the public. We don’t want to be involved in the personal health care decisions between a woman and her doctor," Klein said.

Klein said the way current law is written, the state would need to be invited to seek criminal cases in any particular jurisdiction in this county.

The letter from prosecutors throughout the country said, “As elected prosecutors, ministers of justice, and leaders in our communities, we cannot stand by and allow members of our community to live in fear of the ramifications of this deeply troubling decision."

It said resources should be used for other crimes.

“Indeed, our communities have entrusted us to use our best judgment in deciding how and if to leverage the criminal legal system to further the safety and well-being of all, and we are ethically bound to pursue those interests in every case,” the letter stated. “Enforcing abortion bans runs counter to the obligations and interests we are sworn to uphold.”

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, a Republican, has suggested he will enforce the ban. Attorney General Dave Yost, also a Republican, hasn’t responded to requests for comment. But Klein said he doesn’t think Yost has the authority to weigh-in on prosecution in this situation.

Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio, said her organization salutes "the brave and principled prosecutors who are standing up in opposition to these egregious and cruel laws by utilizing their discretion to selectively prosecute these ‘offenses.’”

The ACLU of Ohio plans to challenge the new law.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.