TALLAHASSEE — The Florida House has passed a measure that would create new penalties for people who harm an unborn baby during a crime.
The bill (HB 59) was approved 74-42 Friday and immediately certified to the Senate, though that chamber adjourned for the week before taking it up.
Remee Lee, the Tampa woman whose ex-boyfriend tricked her into taking a pill that caused her to miscarry her unborn child, has spoken before lawmakers this session in favor of the bill.
Lee was in the House visitors’ gallery as the bill passed there.
“I’m very proud of the legislators today for making the right choice,” she told reporters afterward. “I hope other people are able to hold their babies like I wanted to.”
If signed into law, the measure will allow perpetrators to be charged with a separate offense if they commit a crime resulting in injury or death to an unborn child.
The separate offense would not require prosecutors to show a defendant’s criminal intent or even awareness of a woman’s pregnancy.
That provision concerned Democrats opposing the bill.
Rep. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, used the example of a pregnant woman playing soccer who’s accidentally kicked in the stomach, and miscarries as a result.
“I can’t vote for a bill that causes unintended consequences,” she said.
Lee’s ex-boyfriend, John Andrew Welden, the son of an obstetrician, was sentenced in January to nearly 14 years in prison after pleading guilty to drug tampering.
He had been indicted for murder under a rarely used federal statute known as the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.
Welden, also of Tampa, admitted he forged a prescription for the abortion drug, Cytotec, and then took Lee to his father’s office, where she received an ultrasound.
The next day, he tampered with a prescription bottle and scraped identifying marks off the pills to make them look like amoxicillin, a common antibiotic.
He gave Lee the pills and told her to take them.
Lee, who was six or seven weeks pregnant, had taken one pill and learned the next morning her unborn baby no longer had a heartbeat, according to reports.
On Friday, Lee brought the framed ultrasound pictures of her unborn son Memphis.
“I’m still a proud mom,” she said.
How to sound off
HB 59 would create new penalties for people who harm an unborn baby during a crime. The bill passed the House and will be considered by the Senate.
To find and contact your senator, visit www.leg.state.fl.us. You’ll also find helpful tips at the Information Center there.