District attorneys, like this one in Texas, are vowing not to prosecute abortion Nearly 90 elected prosecutors from both blue and red states pledged not to prosecute those who seek or provide abortions. One Texas DA says that's because their jobs are about keeping people safe.

This Texas district attorney is one of dozens who have vowed not to prosecute abortion

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A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Now that the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, abortion is illegal or heavily restricted in at least 11 states. In Texas, existing pre-Roe laws make abortion a felony, and many providers shut down for fear of prosecution. And while a federal judge in Houston issued a temporary restraining order with a hearing expected next month, Texas' six-week abortion ban, known as SB 8, stays in place, meaning access remains extremely limited in the state.

But Jose Garza, the district attorney for Travis County, where Austin is located, has vowed not to prosecute anyone who seeks, provides or supports an abortion. He's joined more than six dozen prosecutors across the nation who have made that pledge, and he joins us now. District Attorney, welcome.

JOSE GARZA: Thank you so much.

MARTINEZ: Now, with federal abortion protections, what has changed about abortion access in Texas? Can someone obtain an abortion at all in the state of Texas?

GARZA: I think practically, in this moment, it is incredibly difficult. We know that, anecdotally, providers are shutting down and are no longer providing that service, and it is easy to understand why. Here in the state of Texas, our statewide Republican leadership has turned what was a constitutionally protected right for the last 50 years into a crime.

MARTINEZ: You said providers are starting to shut down. What do you expect to happen when the trigger law - Texas' trigger law passes and goes into effect?

GARZA: Well, what I expect is that women without means, women of color, working-class women, victims of sexual assault and rape are going to be the hardest hit by these new draconian rules and sanctions. I think that we will see the reality in Texas is that women and families of means will still be able to access the health care services that they need. But it will be working-class women, women of color, it will be victims of domestic violence and sexual assault who have to live with the severe consequences of the laws here in the state of Texas.

MARTINEZ: Why did you publicly promise not to prosecute abortion-related crimes?

GARZA: Because I don't want women who live in our community suffering or dying at home because they're too scared to go to the doctor and get the medical attention that they need. The No. 1 job of the district attorney - of any district attorney - is to keep our community safe. There is no question that this ruling by the Supreme Court will make our community less safe. We know what the reality was before Roe in the United States - that over a thousand women a year died seeking unsafe abortions. We know that worldwide, today, as we speak, over 20,000 women a year die from unsafe abortions. We know that this is not going to end abortions. It will end safe abortions for too many. This decision will make our community less safe.

MARTINEZ: The attorney general for your state in Texas, Ken Paxton, he supports strict abortion restrictions. What could happen to you, DA Garza, for making this promise, for making this pledge that you did?

GARZA: The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest court in the state of Texas for criminal cases, and the Texas Constitution are incredibly clear that the only entity that has authority to pursue prosecutions in a community is the office of the district attorney, locally elected by the people. That has been the law in the state of Texas since our founding as a state, and we are about to find out just how radical this Republican Party is. But we will continue to rely on the law, and we will continue to follow our mandate to ensure that justice is done for people who live in our community.

MARTINEZ: I know that GOP State Representative Briscoe Cain wants to introduce legislation to allow district attorneys the power to prosecute outside of their counties. Is there a chance, or have you heard about the possibility, that you might face prosecution somehow for not enforcing the state's laws on abortion once it all gets settled?

GARZA: The Republican leadership in the state of Texas has - and nationally - have demonstrated time and time again that they are willing to play politics with our public safety, that there is no length to which they will not go to score political points. That is the reality of our current Republican Party. They are increasingly an undemocratic party that has imposed radical views not supported by the majority of the people who live in this state or this country. My job - the job of any district attorney in the state of Texas - is to see that justice is done. And I'm going to continue to fulfill my statutory mandate to ensure that justice is done on behalf of the people who live here in Travis County.

MARTINEZ: As an attorney, though, is there a possibility or a scenario where you could face charges, where you can somehow be prosecuted for your involvement in this way?

GARZA: I'm going to continue to focus on the people who live in Travis County and doing everything I can to ensure that our community is safe. You know, here in Travis County, like communities all across the country, we are focused on doing everything we can to reduce acts of violence and gun violence. To pool resources away from that work, to pursue this kind of political prosecution would destabilize our community and make it less safe.

MARTINEZ: What have you heard from your community since this ruling came down? Austin, Texas, For those that don't know, is a blue dot in the larger red Texas sea of counties surrounding you. So what have you heard from the people where you live about your stance on this and the ruling in general since it came down?

GARZA: With every day that passes, every part of the state is more and more like Austin, and Austin is more and more like the rest of the state. Increasingly, our statewide leadership is out of touch with what people in our community want and need. People in my community are terrified. They are angry. They are fearful for victims of crime, for victims of domestic violence, for victims of sexual assault who have no recourse under current Texas law.

But at the end of the day, I believe that our community is also a hopeful one. We know that the right to an abortion, which has been identified in the United States Constitution, which has been a part of our legal system for over 50 years, which enjoys widespread popular support from the people who give consent to be governed - we know that it is a right that we had to fight for to win and that we will have to fight for to get back. And I think the people who live in this community are ready for that fight.

MARTINEZ: That's Jose Garza, district attorney for Travis County in Texas. DA, thank you very much.

GARZA: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LOREN CONNORS' "WHISPERS")

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