The Winston-Salem Democratic Socialists of America demanded Thursday that Republican District Attorney Jim O’Neill and his Democratic challenger Denise Hartsfield publicly promise not to prosecute women who get abortions, providers of abortions or people who help women get the procedure.
Tara Rose, the co-chairwoman of the organization, talked about her group’s demands at a news conference outside the Forsyth County Hall of Justice. About 20 abortion rights supporters attended the event.
Since July 3, more than 670 people have signed a petition by the Winston-Salem DSA, demanding that O’Neill and Hartsfield promise to protect access to abortion in Forsyth County, Rose said.
“We defend freedom of all people to control their own healthcare decisions, bodies and lives by holding our elected prosecutors accountable,” Rose said.
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Hartsfield said Thursday that she has received the demand from the Winston-Salem DSA to sign a petition, saying that she would not prosecute anyone for obtaining abortions.
“I really don’t know how I could do that (and) say I’m not going to prosecute something that doesn’t exist yet (a ban on abortion),” Hartsfield said.
“We live in North Carolina, and right now, abortions are still legal,” Hartsfield said.
O’Neill couldn’t be immediately reached Thursday to comment on his position regarding the Winston-Salem DSA’s demand and his stance on abortion.
Forsyth County voters will cast ballots in the Nov. 8 election for either O’Neill or Hartsfield for the district attorney’s job.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently overturned the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, eliminating constitutional protections for abortions.
The court’s ruling allows state legislators to ban abortion and pass laws to criminalize people for obtaining abortions, providing abortions and helping women seeking abortions, Rose said.
Republican leaders in the N.C. General Assembly have asked a federal judge to reinstate a 20-week abortion ban previously thrown out by courts, despite Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein’s refusal to seek enforcement of the ban.
Legislators in North Carolina have introduced bills seeking to ban abortions in the state, Rose said.
“Working class, lower-income individuals and other marginalized groups will be most impacted by bans on abortion, Rose said.
Hartsfield said she supports abortion and reproductive rights for women.
“We’ve had a system for a very long time that allowed women their freedom of their reproductive rights,” Hartsfield said. “I think it’s your body, your choice.”
Earlier this week, Kansas voters protected the right to get an abortion in their state, rejecting a measure that would have allowed their Republican-controlled legislature to tighten abortion restrictions or ban it outright.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order that lays the groundwork for Medicaid to help women seeking abortions to travel between states to obtain access to the procedure.
At the news conference, the Rev. Craig Schaub, the minister at Parkway United Church of Christ in Winston-Salem, said that abortion-rights supporters must resist any restrictions on “reproductive justice,” and that people of all faiths have fought for abortion rights.
The candidates running for district attorney should not use limited public resources to prosecute someone for going through “a very difficult discernment for what is right for them and their family,” Schaub said. “It has nothing to do with public safety.”
Carla Catalan Day of Winston-Salem, a Democrat running for the N.C. House District 74 seat, said at the news conference she will support women’s rights to abortion if she is elected to the state legislature.
“Real family values mean that working families should be able to choose when to have a child,” said Day who is running against the Republican incumbent, State Rep. Jeff Zenger of Lewisville.
“Most women, most mothers who choose to get an abortion already have two to three children,” Day said. “That’s a very complex decision that only that person can make.”
Larry Little, a retired professor of political science at Winston-Salem State University, said at the news conference that he supports abortion rights as a father of three daughters.
“I stand for their ability to choose whether or not they want to bring a child into this world,” Little said. “They are traumatized about the possibility that the government could give them no choice on this matter.
Little, a local social justice activist for 50 years, said that Americans are living in a dangerous time.
“I thought we were through with so much nonsense,” Little said. “But there are people hell-bent with taking us backwards.
“We are not going back,” Little said. “We are going to fight.”