A Tampa woman tricked into taking an abortion pill by her ex, John Welden, decided not to testify
11:36 AM, Jan 9, 2014
6:11 PM, Jun 30, 2014
TAMPA - In an unexpected end, prosecutors did not call Remee Jo Lee to the stand at her ex lover's sentencing hearing.
Lee was tricked into taking an abortion pill by John Welden and his fate is now in the hands of the judge.
Lee lost her baby at six weeks.
Welden, who has already pleaded guilty in the case, could face more than a decade behind bars. However, the judge asked to hear from medical experts about the potency of the drug used, Cytotec.
Defense attorney Todd Foster called three medical experts to the stand Thursday.
Dr. Beverly Winikoff, a reproductive specialist and professor at Columbia University in New York, who serves as a consultant to the World Health Organization on drugs that induce abortion, testified it is unlikely the one pill Lee took caused her to lose her baby.
"You need several doses," said Winikoff.
Winikoff, who says she has studied Cytotec for 25 years and written more than 40 articles on the drug, could not definitively rule out that the pill did cause Lee to lose her baby.
"There is not evidence to allow a specific answer because the regime used has not been tested," she said.
Winikoff explained that four Cytotec pills in conjunction with another drug are the drugs routinely used to induce and completely terminate a pregnancy.
Dr. Rebecca Allen, an obstetrician who also attended Columbia University in New York City, testified for the defense. However, she may have inadvertently bolstered the prosecution's case when she testified under oath that under no circumstance would she recommend a pregnant woman take Cytotec.
She said she would not even administer a small dose because of the risk of induced abortion.
Toxicologist Dr. Marland Delaney told the judge there is no way one pill would have caused Lee to lose her baby.
"It has to have a sufficient dose to cause an effect," he said.
Judge Richard Lazarra told attorneys he'd heard enough from medical witnesses shortly before 5 p.m. and will allow them each to make a 20 minute closing argument Friday afternoon. Then, the judge is expected to sentence Welden.
Court will resume Friday at 1:00 p.m.
THURSDAY: PROSECUTION MEDICAL EXPERTS
As enlarged sonogram pictures of his unborn baby were shown on a projector screen in federal court Wednesday afternoon, John Welden sat expressionless.
The pictures were part of the testimony given by Dr. Catherine Lynch, an obstetrician and associate vice president of the College of Medicine Obstetrics and Gynecology at University of South Florida.
Lynch testified that Remee Jo Lee was not at risk of losing her baby and that the ultrasound showed a viable fetus. The sonogram photos were taken by Welden's father, who is an obstetrician in Lutz. Lee was six weeks pregnant at the time.
Welden pleaded guilty to giving Lee Cytotec, an abortion pill. Back in March, he instructed Lee to take the pills sublingually three times a day. Lee took one pill and ended up hours later at Tampa General Hospital where doctors told her that her baby had no heartbeat.
The drug now sits at the crux of the sentencing phase of the case.
Last month, Judge Richard Lazarra asked to hear from medical experts as to whether or not Cytotec caused Lee to miscarry before he hands down Welden's sentence.
Under a plea agreement, it was initially recommended that Welden spend 14 years behind bars.
U.S. Attorneys also called Dr. Daniel Buffington, who is a pharmacology expert, to the stand.
Buffington explained that Cytotec is mainly used to treat bleeding ulcers but comes with a black box warning by the FDA. Cytotec is classified as a Category X drug, meaning it poses significant risks to pregnant women. The warning alerts and reminds doctors of this risk and to not prescribe it to a pregnant woman who intends to carry her baby to term.
"No dose is safe," Buffington told the judge.
Buffington explained that Cytotec is routinely used to induce abortions because it causes uterine contractions. He added that is also cuts off the blood supply to the fetus.
When Cytotec is taken and the pregnancy is not terminated, the baby will be born with birth defects, Buffington explained.