John Andrew Welden is heading to prison for 14 years after he tricked his pregnant girlfriend, Remee Lee, into taking a drug, misoprostol, to cause an abortion. Lee was six weeks pregnant and refused to have an abortion as Welden had demanded.
Authorities say that 28-year-old John Andrew Welden did not want to be a father, so when his girlfriend, Remee Jo Lee, got pregnant, Welden faked a prescription for an abortion pill, switched a label so the medication appeared to be a common antibiotic, and gave her the drug. The drug did its job. The unborn baby died.
A federal judge Monday afternoon sentenced John Andrew Welden, the man accused of giving a former romantic partner a drug to cause a miscarriage, to 13 years and eight months in prison.
That hearing concluded Jan. 10 with Judge Lazzara finding that a single dose of the drug misoprostol, which has the brand name Cytotec, caused Lee to lose a nearly seven-week pregnancy.
Welden once faced a mandatory life sentence if convicted of first-degree murder under the federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act. Now, after pleading guilty to consumer product tampering and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, he faces no more than 15 years.
Welden’s father is an obstetrician-gynecologist who performed the ultrasound and blood tests that confirmed Lee’s pregnancy, though he weas not involved in the crime. After confirmation of the pregnancy, John Andrew Welden told Lee that her blood tests revealed that she had an infection. He gave her a bottle of pills in an orange plastic bottle of the type one receives from a pharmacy. Welden falsified a label somehow to indicate that the bottle contained amoxicillin and that a prescription from Welden’s father called for her to take the medicine three times daily.
In fact, the bottle contained misoprostol, the second drug in the RU-486 abortion regimen. Misoprostol is used primarily to prevent patients who take large quantities of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) from developing ulcers. Very late in pregnancies it has legitimate obstetrical uses that, roughly speaking, have to do with inducing the delivery of a healthy full-term baby. However, early, in pregnancies a pregnant woman who takes misoprostol will begin to have uterine contractions that can kill the baby by causing the uterus to expel its contents.
Lee says she woke up on Easter Sunday in a pool of blood. The staff at a nearby hospital told her that her baby had died. It was quickly apparent to these medical professionals that the drug she had been given was not the antibiotic. Interestingly, Welden had gone so far as to eliminate drug-identifying features from the tablets. It was quickly determined that she had, in fact, been given misoprostol.
Dave Andrusko of National Right to Life has written about the case:
Welden’s defense team offered two complementary explanations for why Ms. Lee lost her baby last March, or at least why it could not be attributed to Welden’s actions.
First, they called on experts to testify that was not possible to definitively prove that the one 200 microgram dose of Cytotec (misoprostol) Weldon told Lee was an antibiotic caused her abortion. Lazzara rejected that out of hand. Reporting for the Tampa Tribune, Elaine Silvestrini wrote
“The judge said defense experts merely served as conduits for information they found in scientific literature, which the judge said amounted to no more than case studies with little supporting information. This, he said, was ‘useless to me in determining a relationship of Misoprostol to a particular side effect.’”
On Thursday lawyers for Welden tried another tack, citing “medical records showing Lee was already experiencing bleeding in her seventh week of pregnancy suggesting other factors may have led to the miscarriage,” reported WTSP’s Eric Glasser.
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But Lazzara was having none of that either.
“The suggestion that prior to the ingestion of this highly toxic drug, this victim was experiencing a spontaneous abortion is just speculation not supported by the record,” Judge Lazzara said. “The only rational explanation for what caused the demise of the victim’s embryo was her ingestion of one dose of 200 micrograms of Misoprostol.”
Welden’s defense team spared no expense, according to local media reports. “Defense attorneys flew in experts from New York City, one of which was affiliated with the World Health Organization,” according to WFTS’s Jacqueline Ingles.
“Welden’s stepmother said she was disappointed in the ruling because the defense’s experts are ‘world renowned, ‘” Ingles reported. “However, the judge was not impressed with their lofty resumes and discounted their testimony.”