A top Missouri prosecutor on Friday said he doesn't think any counterpart "in their right mind" would prosecute pregnant women under a new law that bans abortions at or after eight weeks of pregnancy.
Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys President Tim Lohmar, the St. Charles County prosecutor, said the organization reviewed the law as it was being drafted.
"It's very clear to us that the Legislature's intent was not at all to go after women who seek abortions, but instead the doctors and medical providers who do so outside the statute," Lohmar said. "I can't imagine any prosecutor in their right mind would ever prosecute a woman for seeking an abortion under this statute."
The new law bars the procedure at or after eight weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for medical emergencies but not for rape or incest. Doctors who violate the eight-week cutoff could face up to 15 years in prison. The law says women who receive abortions "shall not be prosecuted for a conspiracy to violate" the statute.
The law is set to take effect Aug. 28, although opponents sued in an attempt to block it while a legal challenge plays out.
Critics of the law have argued that it could mean possible felony charges for women past eight weeks of pregnancy who go out of state for a medical abortion, then take the pill at home in Missouri. That's the position that the Missouri Public Defender's Office took, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported .
In a June memo to the state auditor obtained by the newspaper, the office comptroller, Kathleen Lear, wrote that public defenders expect to defend indigent women charged under the law.
The law "creates a new Class B felony for 'any person who knowingly . induces an abortion of an unborn child . ,' which arguably would include post-conception contraception," Lear wrote. "If so, this would result in the prosecution of an unknown but significant number of indigent women throughout the state which would require representation by the State Public Defender System."
Republican lawmakers who drafted the bill have disagreed that it would allow pregnant women to be charged for seeking abortions.