Make abortion pill deception a Florida crime, lawyer says
The father of a woman authorities say was tricked by her boyfriend into taking an abortion pill called on legislators Monday to make the man’s actions a crime in Florida.
“No father should ever have to see his daughter go through something like this,” Edward Lee told reporters Monday, referring to his daughter, Remee Jo Lee, whose boyfriend, authorities say, slipped her a drug that caused her to miscarry their unborn child.
John Andrew Welden was arrested last week on federal charges, including product tampering and murder under a federal law known as the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. If convicted, Welden faces a life sentence.
Prosecutors say Welden forged a prescription from his father, Stephen Welden, a practicing OB/GYN physician. Then, authorities say, John Welden changed the label to make the drug, Cytotec, appear to be the common antibiotic amoxicillin.
Welden is accused of giving the drug to Remee Jo Lee, telling her his father had said she had an infection and instructing her to take it. Lee, who was about six or seven weeks pregnant, lost the baby within a couple of days.
Lee’s parents, Rosa and James Edward Lee, appeared with her attorney, Gil Sanchez, at a news conference.
James Edward Lee said he and his wife “have been searching for answers why this happened. We are a close family and stand 100 percent behind our daughter. We have and will give her unconditional love and support to see that she recovers and moves forward with her goals.”
Lee said he and his wife “want the full weight of the law” brought against Welden. “We do not want this to happen to any other daughter and request actions from our state legislators to pass laws criminalizing this activity.”
Lee also asked people to keep their daughter in their prayers. “We are humble, hard-working and private people, and respectfully ask the media to give us our privacy and not seek any comments or go to our home.’’
Sanchez said the federal complaint could not have been pursued but for the product-tampering aspect of the case, which placed it in federal jurisdiction.
Sanchez said Welden could not be prosecuted under state law because the unborn baby was not viable to live outside the womb. He said he hopes Florida amends its law to mirror the federal statute, which has no such requirement.
A bill that would have made the change Sanchez suggested passed the Florida House of Representatives this past session, but later died in the Senate.
Sponsor Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, said Monday he hopes this case will convince legislators the law needs to be changed.
“I hope it is the vehicle that gets this law adopted, the federal standard adopted here in Florida,” he said.
Ahern said the bill, which he also proposed last year and was suggested by others previously, has run into opposition by those who fear it is a step in the direction of conferring “personhood” on all unborn babies, potentially outlawing all abortion and many forms of birth control.
Ahern said his bill “has nothing to do with that” and explicitly says it does not apply to women seeking an abortion. “Clearly in there the woman is still the only one who is able to abort the child of her own free will,” Ahern said.
Sanchez, who filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday against John Welden, said more lawsuits might be coming.
“Nothing will right the wrong intentionally inflicted against Remee,” Sanchez said. “However, we are actively investigating, researching and are preparing to file additional civil actions against any and all individuals, businesses or companies that in some way contributed to Remee’s loss so that justice is administered. No women should ever have to go through such a heinous act, and the chemical bullet known as Cytotec should have more stringent regulations in the dispensing of this drug.”
Sanchez said Lee has voluntarily put the lawsuit on hold while the federal case is pending, but he will explore pursue other possible claims against other parties, including Stephen Welden and the pharmacy where John Welden obtained the Cytotec.