A Florida woman previously tricked by her boyfriend to have an abortion is now using her story to convince the state legislature to pass a fetal protection law.
Remee Jo Lee, 27, stood in front of the state's Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday to tell her harrowing story of struggle and deception. In March 2013, her boyfriend, 29-year-old John Welden, tricked her into having an abortion when she was seven weeks pregnant. Welden, who apparently had another girlfriend and did not want to father Lee's child, convinced the pregnant woman into take the miscarriage-inducing drug Cytotec, telling her it was an antibiotic for an infection.
Welden was sentenced to 13 years, 8 months in prison in early January for drug tampering. The 29-year-old couldn't be prosecuted in connection with the child's death, however, because Florida law states such charges can only take place when the fetus can survive outside of the woman's body. The bill Lee is advocating for would protect all pregnancies, possibly carrying the sentence of life in prison to anyone who intentionally kills a fetus, no matter its age in the womb.
"This has just been the most devastating experience for me. This never goes away. I deal with this every day," Lee told the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, carrying a framed photo of the sonogram that showed her unborn child. "This has just been very, very hard and I never want anyone else to go through this ever again and I want the state of Florida to show that this is not acceptable, that you can't get away with this."
"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."
The committee voted 6-2 to pass Senate Bill 162 on Tuesday. Both the Senate and House versions of the bill must be approved by one more committee before receiving a full chamber vote. The same fetal protection bill failed to pass in the state last year.
When Walden was sentenced in January, U.S. District Judge Richard Al Lazzara told The Tampa Tribune, "I don't believe Mr. Welden's an evil person, but he committed an evil act, and he's going to pay the consequences."
Walden also issued a statement at his sentencing, saying he spoke with "the most humble and remorseful heart."
"I've caused everyone a huge amount of emotional pain … What I've done will stay with me every day for the rest of my life."