ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — The St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney doubled down on his commitment to not prosecute abortion cases on Wednesday.
Wesley Bell joined St. Louis County Executive Sam Page at a news conference about abortion rights. Page announced a plan to designate federal COVID funds to support people seeking reproductive health care.
The Democratic prosecutor said he stands with women to have autonomy over their own bodies and reproductive rights.
Bell made it clear that he was not interested in assigning resources to prosecute abortion providers.
"We have limited resources and prosecutors every day make decisions how to utilize those resources," Bell said Wednesday. "Our priority from the very day I stepped in this office is violent and serious offenses and defenders and prosecuting those cases."
"There is no public safety concern, no public issue and this is quite the opposite," Bell said of prosecution of abortion cases. "Protecting those residents and protecting those making that difficult choice and we will use our discretion accordingly."
Bell joined other prosecuting attorneys across the county in a statement saying they would refuse to prosecute those seeking, assisting or providing abortions.
"We believe that it is in the best interest of public safety for abortion to be legal and regulated," Bell said.
5 On Your Side's Political Analyst Anita Manion said even if Bell doesn't want to prosecute on the local level, this doesn't prevent lawsuits.
With Missouri's law, it gives both the state' attorney general and local prosecutors authority to prosecute abortion-related crimes.
"The attorney general could still choose to prosecute those at the state level," Manion said.
Lauren Nacke, board president of Pro-Choice Missouri also spoke at the news conference. Nacke cited the reversal of abortion rights as another barrier to people of color who systemically faced obstacles anyway.
However, State Representative Mary Elizabeth Coleman, who is the co-sponsor of HB 126 which effectively makes abortion illegal in Missouri, says this seems to be a pattern.
"The Prosecuting Attorney in both the City of St Louis as well as St Louis County are failing to prosecute various crimes. We're seeing crime levels rise across the region. This feels to me like a continuation of that trend of failure to prosecute and I think people are probably really concerned about that," she said.
State Representative Nick Schroer, who's another co-sponsor of the bill, sent this statement:
"It is sad to see that local prosecutors in St. Louis City and St. Louis County are refusing to uphold their oath of office to abide by the laws of Missouri. Honestly this dereliction of duty proves that they are more concerned with a abiding by a left-wing social agenda rather than keeping our communities safe. Preservation of life, states rights, and our Constitution mean nothing to these radicals. Abortion is not health care as 100% of them result in the death of one innocent human life."
As far as a statement from the State's Attorney General Eric Schmitt, this was shared:
"This is par for the course for progressive prosecutors.”
Watch the full news conference: