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Jackson County, MO Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker: Abortion ruling ‘tragic decision’ on many levels

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Posted at 4:56 PM, Jun 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-28 17:56:51-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Moments after last Friday’s Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, a 2019 Missouri law banning abortions in all cases except “medical emergencies” immediately went into effect.

Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker was among those who spent the weekend consulting with other experts and reading about how Missouri’s newly-in-effect law might affect abortion-related prosecutions.

At issue is the wording of Missouri law that appears to be up for interpretation.

Last Friday, Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd told KSHB 41 News he did not believe it was possible under the law to prosecute a woman for having an abortion.

“On the contrary, Missouri law repeatedly states that a woman upon whom an abortion is performed shall not be prosecuted,” Zahnd said.

In an interview Monday with National Public Affairs Program Here and Now, Peters Baker said she reads the law differently.

“There’s a lot of gray here,” she said during the interview. “I don’t belong in the discussion with a female patient and her doctor or nurse. I just don’t belong there, but here I am, practically in the room with them.”

Peters Baker said the Supreme Court’s ruling and the subsequent trigger of Missouri’s abortion law was “tragic.”

“As a prosecutor, I have literally been thrown into the public health decisions of medical professionals and women, their patients,” Peters Baker said. “I don’t believe we belong there.”

Both Peters Baker and Zahnd said that while they will uphold Missouri’s laws, they’ll use prosecutorial discretion afforded to them on a case-by-case basis.

“I took an oath to uphold all of Missouri’s laws. Those of which I disagree with, I uphold, but I use my discretion and I use it wisely,” she said. “I really work hard to reach decisions on cases and I will use my discretion here.”