NewsLocal NewsInvestigations

Actions

Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney concerned rape, incest survivors can be prosecuted under Missouri law

Jean Peters Baker.jpg
Posted at 5:40 PM, Aug 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-31 20:54:11-04

KANSAS CITY, MO — Jean Peters Baker, the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney, is concerned rape and incest victims who seek abortion could be held criminally responsible under Missouri's new abortion ban.

The state law, which recently went into effect when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, does not exclude victims of rape and incest.

"Missouri's law is extreme, even viewed nationally, Missouri is a near total ban and the circumstances be damned," Peters Baker said.

When the law went into effect, Gov. Mike Parson said it didn't allow for the prosecution of women.

But, Peters Baker and other prosecuting attorneys have all said that's not how the law is written.

"If an incest victim walks through the door, but didn’t follow Missouri's law about being forced to agree to bring that pregnancy to birth, I get to have to look at her for prosecution," she said.

When it comes to victims of incest, Peters Baker said those women are usually repeatedly assaulted, which increases the risk of pregnancy.

While Peters Baker has not had any women referred to her office for prosecution under Missouri's new law, she has defended rape and incest victims in the past.

"This is not a fictitious scenario," Peters Baker said. "A whole lot of people already failed that young woman. Her family failed her. Where are her parents — they failed her."

Peters Baker said the idea of prosecuting a victim is cruel.

"The last place she should be is here," Peters Baker said, describing her office. "If she's here, it should be me defending her, and me fighting for her, and me getting justice for her, because she's already been so greatly injured."

Peters Baker isn't the only prosecuting attorney publicly opposing the new bans on abortion.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Tampa Bay State Attorney Andrew Warren, after he publicly stated he would not prosecute crimes related to abortion and gender transition treatments for kids.

DeSantis said Warren flagrantly violated his oath of office.

Peters Baker said while she will uphold her oath, she will approach these cases with caution.

"I will also do that job very judiciously, Peters Baker said. "I will do it with a sensitivity to how these people arrive here."

Peters Baker encourages other prosecutors to also proceed with caution.

"I think prosecutors need to take a step back and realize this is a real different area for us to step into," Peters Baker said. "We’re literally wading into medical decisions."

Medical providers are also at risk of losing their license should they perform the procedure in Missouri.

"Of course nothing can probably trump 5 to 15 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections," Peters Baker said.

There's one more group, that isn't often discussed, that can also be held criminally liable, Peters Baker says.

"It's not just the woman who winds up in this scenario, there’s a father somewhere here, too. If women have to be looked at for prosecution then shouldn’t men," she said.

We want to hear from you on what resources Kansas City families might benefit from to help us all through the pandemic. If you have five minutes, feel free to fill out this survey to help guide our coverage: KSHB COVID Survey.