Prosecutor Removed for Refusing to Engage in Culture War Prosecutions

There are two issues at play here. The first is abortion, the second involves denying gender-affirming medical and psychiatric care to potentially transgender youth. Recently, a Florida prosecutor was removed by Governor Ron DeSantis after the prosecutor announced he would not prosecute any crimes related to abortion or gender-affirming medical care. The governor has taken a strong-arm approach in dealing with prosecutors whose own morals do not align with the governor’s policy. Nonetheless, the prosecutor is an elected official. It remains unclear if the governor can remove an official who was elected by the county he represents. The prosecutor issued a statement saying that he serves those who elected him—not the governor.

Such pledges are common now across the country. Florida, which has a mix of conservative and liberal interests, remains a battleground for culture war issues. Other states have reverted to centuries-old laws regarding criminalizing abortion. However, no prosecutions under these laws have been reported.

Florida law makes most abortions illegal after 15 weeks. Meanwhile, religious leaders have filed religious freedom suits against the state saying that the abortion ban violates their religious freedom. While the Bible is often used to rally against abortion, the Old Testament makes it fairly clear that life begins at the first breath. Several Rabbis, some Christians, and Buddhists have joined forces to fight the law under the state’s Constitutional religious freedom and privacy rights. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that abortion rights are guaranteed under the state’s privacy laws.

Will the culture war lead to a real war?

After the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the outrage on both sides died down. Nonetheless, several states have bans in place that were triggered once the precedent established under Roe v. Wade was overturned. These so-called trigger laws are now on the books in several states across the country. They hearken back to the 1960s and use terms like “quickening” to determine whether or not a fetus is a person. If the fetus has “quickened” then it’s a person.

Part of the problem with these laws is that they will create a cascade of legal snarls for those who live in the state. Individuals who now get into car accidents can be charged with manslaughter if the victim is carrying a baby. Child support payments might begin at inception or quickening. Wrongful death lawsuits emerging from the loss of a fetus may be actionable. Murder charges for women and doctors appear likely.

While many believe that abortion is a state’s rights issue, the federal government took the power away from the states to deny individuals the right to make their own health care choices. The same individuals who are advocating for state’s rights will now use the overturning of Roe v. Wade to pass federal legislation limiting abortion. So it boils down to the government’s authority to make health care decisions on your behalf, and the collateral damage may be so significant, that states that impose the strictest abortion bans create serious legal tangles for themselves moving forward.

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