Tensions Flare Over District Attorney Suspension on Abortion

By Brandon Leonard

In the wake of Roe v. Wade being struck down, the state attorney for Florida’s 13th Judicial Circuit, Andrew Warren, was removed from office by Governor Ron DeSantis for alleged neglect of duty.

According to the Washington Post, Warren’s suspension primarily resulted from his signature on two written statements pledging he would not prosecute women seeking abortions nor those seeking gender-affirming medical treatment.       

“State Attorneys have a duty to prosecute crimes as defined in Florida law, not to pick and choose which laws to enforce based on his personal agenda,” said DeSantis in a statement made following Warren’s suspension.       

Warren was replaced by Susan Lopez who, as the Tampa Bay Times notes, is radically different from her predecessor. 

Having grown up in Tampa, Lopez worked within the office she now leads throughout her life—having previously been a judge appointed in 2021 and being the Assistant State Attorney for the 13th Judicial Circuit for over fifteen years. Lopez has been described as politically neutral but practical in her judgments.       

Warren has not taken the suspension without action. He has now filed suit against DeSantis over violation of his First Amendment rights. Warren’s case is built off the fact that he had not taken any action relating to the pledges he made. Likewise, he claims his removal overturned the democratic election which put him into power.       

In April, DeSantis signed a bill into law that banned abortions after fifteen weeks. The bill, notably, does have exceptions regarding potential death or severe injury, but does not apply these exceptions to cases of rape, incest, or human trafficking. 

The Mississippi law that this bill was based on was, in fact, the same one which led to Roe v. Wade being struck down. Currently, the bill is being appealed to the Florida Supreme Court after Florida health care providers filed suit in an attempt to block the bill’s passage.       

The bill is primarily touted as being for infants, given its name as the “Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality Act”, something DeSantis expanded upon in a statement:       

“House Bill 5 protects babies in the womb who have beating hearts, who can move, who can taste, who can see, and who can feel pain,” said DeSantis.  “Life is a sacred gift worthy of our protection, and I am proud to sign this great piece of legislation which represents the most significant protections for life in the state’s modern history.”       

However, women native to Florida argue that the bill will do much more harm than good.       

“Making abortion illegal won’t put a stop to it,” said Hannah Sam, junior BFA in Film and Media Arts. “It just makes it more dangerous. Not even just physically but circumstantially where people have to travel and go to extreme measures to have a safe procedure.”       

“By prosecuting a woman for having an abortion, the state would be setting the precedent that women do not have control over any aspect of their own bodies,” said Blyss Bolger, senior writing major.      

Warren argues this law is unconstitutional and that he is incapable of enforcing it if a case came before him. The governor’s executive order, meanwhile, points to this as proof that Warren sees himself as having authority to nullify Florida’s legislation. Although DeSantis indicated state prosecutors could use discretion on a case-by-case basis, a general statement to avoid enforcing a specific type of law is a different matter entirely.       

The battle between Warren and the state of Florida is far from over, as his case is still underway. The suit is seen by many as more than just a fight over abortion, but over the powers of the Governor himself, as indicated by a brief signed by over 115 legal scholars which decries Warren’s suspension. 

Although that may not be the only freedom at threat, as Bolger puts it:       

“By criminalizing abortion, and by extension a woman’s right to her body, this greatly valued right would no longer be true—instead being rectified to ‘The land of the Free man.’”

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