Sen. Kelli Stargel: federal abortion pill murder charge shows need to protect a fetus in Florida
10:56 PM, May 16, 2013
9:17 AM, May 17, 2013
LUTZ, Fla. - A Lutz man accused of murdering his unborn fetus faces federal charges because Florida state law would not have considered the baby "viable".
Remee Lee claims her boyfriend, John Andrew Welden schemed to abort their 6-week old fetus, informing her that a recent visit to his father's fertility clinic revealed she had an infection for which she needed an antibiotic.
Prosecutors claim Welden replaced the Amoxicillin with Cytotec, a pill that induces labor, and covered his secret with a new label.
Soon after, Lee woke up in a pool of blood and learned the fetus' heart had stopped beating.
"I was never going to do anything except go full-term with it, and he didn't want me to," she said. "I can't believe that someone did something so malicious to me. Not only to me, but to himself. That was our baby."
Lee's attorney recently filed a civil suit against Welden, asking for punitive damages no less than $15,000.
Attorney Michael Blickensderfer calls the civil suit a sure bet, but under state law, Welden cannot face murder charges.
"The fetus has to be viable, and the definition of viability is the child can survive outside the womb," Blickensderfer said.
In Welden's case, the charges are federal. Under the Unborn Victim's of Violence Act, a child in utero is considered a legal victim, no matter how far along.
Murder charges arise if the baby dies as a result of certain felonies. Welden is accused of tampering with a consumer product that affected interstate or foreign commerce.
"At what point is a child viable? With technology, that is always changing," explained Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland).
Sen. Stargel introduced a bill this year to toughen Florida's law. It would allow murder charges for any stage of pregnancy, removing any language of viability. It did not make it through Senate voting due to time constraints, so she plans to argue for it again next year, citing Lee's case as a prime example of why.
"This baby was very important to her, and this loss to her is just as traumatic today as if it had been in a few months," Sen. Stargel said.