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Nashville DA says he won't prosecute abortion cases, but power may be limited

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Posted at 6:03 PM, Jun 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-24 21:07:09-04

Nashville DA Glenn Funk — reacting Friday to the U.S. Supreme Court's "hateful and hurtful" abortion decision — insisted he will do whatever he can to stand in the way of those who want to take away abortion rights.

In fact, there's probably little the progressive prosecutor can really do.

"In 2014, the people of Davidson County elected me to enforce the laws of this state while exercising discretion to promote the public good. This power is written into the Constitution of the State of Tennessee," Funk said in a statement.

"I stated on September 24, 2020, I will not prosecute any woman who chooses to have a medical procedure to terminate a pregnancy or any medical doctor who performs this procedure at the request of their patient.

"I will use my constitutional powers to protect women, health providers and those making personal health decisions."

But here's the rub.

In late 2021, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a law that says Tennessee's state attorney general can ask for a special prosecutor if a DA categorically refuses to enforce certain types of laws — in this case, laws against abortion.

If Funk were to refuse to follow the law as it stands, the AG could simply ask the Tennessee Supreme Court to appoint someone who would, although Funk's statement suggests he would question whether such action is constitutional.

And here's the other issue: medical clinics and medical providers are regulated by the State, not the local DA.

So, if an abortion provider were to try to defy state law, it would be very easy for state attorneys to get an order to shut them down, perhaps even hold them in criminal contempt if they defied that order.

Despite General Funk's public declarations, there's probably nothing that he can really do to stand in the way of the Supreme Court's decision.