Remee Jo Lee was excited in the winter of
2013 over her pregnancy with a baby she already named Memphis, even though her
new boyfriend envisioned a very different future.
This winter, John Welden, formerly a
pre-med student from a privileged background, sits in prison serving a nearly
14-year federal sentence for tricking Lee into taking an abortion pill.
Meanwhile, Lee is in Florida's capital,
changing hearts and minds instead of diapers, to pass a new state law that
would set criminal penalties for causing a pregnant woman to lose her foetus
regardless of how early in the pregnancy. "This is the most devastating
experience for me. It just never goes away. I deal with this every day of my
life," Lee told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
morning-after pill does not cut the rate of either abortions or pregnancies
"Every day, when I see a changing
table in the bathroom, I remember what I've lost, I deal with the stress of
this thing." Current Florida law applies only to the killing of a foetus
which is far enough along to survive outside the womb.
Because Lee's foetus was less than 7 weeks
old, Welden was charged instead under the federal Unborn Victims of Violence
Act, punishable by life in prison.
of product tampering
In a deal with prosecutors, he pleaded
guilty to charges of product tampering and with bodily harm, and conspiracy to
commit mail fraud. The expansion of foetal protection in Florida failed to pass
last year. After hearing from Lee, a Senate panel voted 6-2 to move the bill
Welden admitted in court that he gave Lee a
bottle of pills labelled amoxicillin and told her that his father, an
obstetrician who confirmed the pregnancy, prescribed the antibiotic for her for
a bacterial infection.
In reality, the pill bottle contained
Cytotec, known generically as misoprostol, a stomach ulcer medication which can
Welden obtained the pills using his
father's prescription pad, scratched off identifying marks on the pills and
faked the bottle label with the help of a local pharmacy technician.
hugs 'dead' baby back to life
Cramping and bleeding
Lee began cramping and bleeding, and found
out at the hospital she lost the baby six weeks and five days into the
Prosecutors indicted him in May after
police recorded a phone call between Welden and Lee in which he admitted what
he had done.
Lee testified in support of a bill by
Senator Kelli Stargel, that would make the killing or injury of an unborn baby
a separate offence when a pregnant woman is killed or injured.
Maximum life sentence
An offender would not have to know a victim
was pregnant, in order to be charged with separate offences. Penalties would
depend on the nature of the offence, such as assault and battery or murder, but
a maximum life sentence could be imposed under Stargel's bill for killing an
Killing the mother could be punishable by
death. Stargel emphasised that her bill is not aimed at abortion, and would not
apply penalties when a woman seeks to have a pregnancy terminated.
Her bill now goes to the Senate Rules
Committee for scheduling of floor debate after the legislative session convenes on 4
March. A companion House measure is pending in that chamber's judiciary
dept to probe abortion pill