Experts testify in case of man who slipped abortion-inducing drug to pregnant girlfriend that baby was viable and in no danger

By Dave Andrusko

John Andrew Welden Photo credit: SKIP O'ROURKE | Times (2013)

John Andrew Welden
Photo credit: SKIP O’ROURKE | Times (2013)

During the first of what is expected to be two days of competing testimony, one expert said Wednesday that a sonogram had shown that Remy Jo Lee was not at risk of losing her unborn baby while another explained how the drug Cytotec (misoprostol) can lethally harm an unborn child.

Prosecutors called on Dr. Catherine Lynch and Dr. Daniel Buffington to counter the argument made by Todd Foster, the attorney for John Andrew Welden who has admitted slipping Cytotec to his then-girlfriend, that one dosage would not have been enough to cause Ms. Lee to miscarry her 6-7 week unborn baby.

As Wednesday’s hearing concluded, there was speculation that Ms. Lee, who was not in court Wednesday, would testify today.

At one point, Welden pleaded guilty to lesser charges of consumer product tampering and conspiracy to commit mail fraud as part of a plea bargain to avoid first-degree murder charges under the NRLC-inspired Unborn Victims of Violence Act. The September agreement between prosecutors and defense attorney Foster recommended a prison term of 13 years and eight months for Welden.

But after U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara poured over by a court filing submitted in June by Foster, he told both parties that “The Court has grave concerns with regard to whether there exists a true factual basis to support” the plea bargain parties have already signed. This was in reference to an affidavit from Dr. Rebecca Allen who “opined that it would be ‘impossible’ for one 200 microgram dose to have caused serious bodily harm and also ‘impossible’ for anyone to definitively say that it induced Lee’s abortion,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Dr. Lynch is an obstetrician and associate vice president of the College of Medicine Obstetrics and Gynecology at University of South Florida.

“Lynch testified that Remy Jo Lee was not at risk of losing her baby and that the ultrasound showed a viable fetus,” reported Jacqueline Ingles for the local ABC affiliate. “The sonogram photos were taken by Welden’s father, who is an obstetrician in Lutz” Florida.

The prosecution also called Dr. Daniel Buffington, who is a pharmacology expert, to testify.

“Buffington explained that Cytotec is mainly used to treat bleeding ulcers but comes with a black box warning by the FDA,” Ingles reported. “Cytotec is classified as a Category X drug, meaning it poses significant risks to pregnant women. The warning alerts and reminds doctors of this risk and to not prescribe it to a pregnant woman who intends to carry her baby to term.”

Buffington told the judge, “No dose is safe.”

Buffington explained that Cytotec can be used to induce abortion. The drug causes contractions which would expel the baby. He added that if the baby is not “successfully” aborted, there is a significant chance that the baby will be born with birth defects.

Foster, the lawyer for the defense countered, according to Ingles, that there was no way to tell if the Cytotec caused Ms. Lee to lose her baby, citing “studies where women given low doses of Cytotec did not miscarry studies.”

The timing and nature of events associated with the “miscarriage”/abortion would seem to strongly argue against Foster’s contention.

Weldon told Ms. Lee that his physician father said that she had an infection and he was bringing her antibiotics. After scratched identifying markings off the Cytotec pills, Welden then put the fraudulent label on the empty pill bottle and put the altered Cytotec pills inside. (Cytotec can be used to induce contractions and is the drug commonly used in conjunction with RU486 to complete abortions. It is also increasingly used in the U.S. and many other countries as a stand alone abortifacient.)

Welden “also affixed a second label to the bottle reading, ‘Amoxicillin: 125mg oral tablet,’ a common antibiotic,” according to reporter Elaine Silverstrin.

Weldon told Ms. Lee to take the pills three times a day. She took one pill, began to experience pain and contractions, and hours later was at Tampa General Hospital where doctors told Ms. Lee that her baby was dead.

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