Woman who says she was tricked into abortion pushes for new law

Before she was tricked into taking abortion pills, Remee Lee planned to name her baby Memphis Remington, she said.

Now Lee and her attorney, Gil Sanchez, hope that name will give new impetus to a state bill that would more often ban crimes against fetuses.

The Offenses Against Unborn Children bill, sponsored in 2013 by state Rep. Larry Ahern, R-St. Petersburg, has failed at least three years in a row.

Ahern said Sunday he might name the 2014 bill after Memphis Remington in an effort to personalize the issue and help gather the support it needs to pass.

"It could help keep this issue out there," he said, adding that lawmakers can't officially file bills until July. "I can only sympathize with (Lee) and her family and what they're going through."

John Andrew Welden, 28, is being tried in federal court in Tampa on charges he gave Lee the labor-inducing drug Cytotec disguised as an antibiotic.

He could face life in prison for product tampering and first-degree murder under the federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act.

But a state law is also needed, Sanchez said, because the federal law applies only when a defendant is charged with another federal crime — in this case, product tampering. If the fetus had died due to a non-federal crime — like battery — Welden might have faced no charges, Sanchez said.

Welden's attorneys argued in a recent hearing that the federal law lacks legal precedent, having been invoked only twice before.

Sanchez said state law protects only fetuses deemed "viable," or able to live outside the womb.

"There's an important gap that needs to be filled here," he said.

According to federal prosecutors, Welden confessed to forging the signature of his father, a Lutz fertility doctor, and relabeling a pill bottle as amoxicillin. A drugstore surveillance camera captured him purchasing the Cytotec that sent Lee into an almost immediate medical emergency, according to prosecutors.

Lee was nearly seven weeks pregnant when it happened in March.

Florida is one of about 14 states where there are no criminal penalties for killing a fetus in its early stages, according to an analysis of the 2013 bill that passed the House but stalled in the Senate. The proposal specifies that a woman couldn't be prosecuted for harming or killing her own fetus in those stages.

"This type of law should be in place not just in Florida but in all states," Sanchez said.

He and Lee plan to corral support through social media and lobby legislators until a bill is passed. Lee will limit her public statements during the trial, Sanchez said. But she will join the lobbying effort if a law doesn't pass by trial's end.

In a statement, Lee said she is "devastated for being robbed of the opportunity to be a mother" and wants to "make sure this never happens again to any other woman."

Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at bdavis@tampabay.com or 850-323-0353.

Woman who says she was tricked into abortion pushes for new law 06/09/13 [Last modified: Monday, June 10, 2013 12:55am]

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