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Republicans Push Back on Dem DAs Who Vowed to Not Prosecute Abortion

For a while, it looked like Texans in Democratically controlled areas would have some protections from prosecutions thanks to their local district attorneys refusing to pursue abortion accusations. Texas Republicans are now coming for those DAs under a new law.

When Roe v. Wade was repealed by the U.S. Supreme Court, removing constitutional protection for abortion access, many Texas law enforcement heads vowed to not prosecute people for performing or obtaining abortions. One of those was Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza. In 2022, when abortion in the state became almost completely banned, he was staunchly against using his office to go after those seeking reproductive health care.

“We know that trauma creates cycles of crime and cycles of violence. To have a legal structure that [traumatizes people] and retraumatizes victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault is going to cause real harm in our communities for generations,” he said. “And the people who will suffer the most are working class women, working class families, communities of color, women of color.”

He was not alone. Joe Gonzalez in Bexar County also stated he would not pursue such cases, though he later walked that back. This was  part of a wave of progressive district attorneys refusing to prosecute certain crimes, including those related to low-level drug offenses and illegal immigration.

In response, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed HB 17 in 2023. The law makes it far easier for district attorneys to be removed for “incompetence” and “intoxication.” Most disturbingly, it gives the governor control over appointing the judges who will hear the challenges to remove district attorneys.

A petition against Garza is the first true test of the new law, and it already looks more like a political circus than pursuit of accountability in government. The person who wrote the petition is Garza’s former Republican opponent, Martin Harry, who now lives in Florida. Governor Greg Abbott himself is a major critic of Garza, and appointed Judge Dib Waldrip, a vocal conservative to oversee the matter.

Republicans thus far claim that there is nothing political about any of these challenges and assignments. It is common for local judges to recuse themselves from cases involving DAs they regularly work with, and the law could be seen as simply making a tradition official.

However, the matter is more disturbing when seen through a wider lens. The Republican Party nationally is moving to strip prosecutors of their power when it interferes with their plans. The most famous cases right now involve anyone prosecuting attempts by former President Donald Trump to stay in power despite losing the 2020 election. Georgia Republicans are currently trying to remove Fani Willis, who is heading the case against Trump. Missouri is also looking into policies that mirror Texas’s.

The attempt to remove Garza is just the latest in a long line of actions by Abbott to rein in any attempt by Democratically controlled cites in the state from opposing his hardline culture war edicts. To crush that resistance, his party is making it far simpler to oust opponents from their jobs despite overwhelming support of the voters.

Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner is an award-winning freelance journalist, the author of The Rook Circle, and a member of The Black Math Experiment. He lives in Houston where he spends most of his time investigating corruption and strange happenings. Jef has written for Houston Press, Free Press Houston, and Houston Chronicle.

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