Medical experts testify about the abortion pill John Welden admittedly gave his girlfriend Remee Lee

Posted at 5:16 PM, Jan 08, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-30 19:24:00-04

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 it 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.

Defense attorney Todd Foster cited studies where women given low doses of Cytotec did not miscarry.  He argues there is no way to tell if the drug caused Lee to lose her baby.

"You just can't tell," said Foster.  "The development, the state of science, given these small doses doesn't permit that conclusion."

Foster called the case a tragedy for everyone involved.

He plans to call three expert witnesses to testify Thursday. Court resumes at 9:30 a.m.

Lee was not in court but her attorneys say they are deciding whether or not she will testify.