John Andrew Welden, 28, pictured with Remee Lee, 26. (Courtesy Gil Sanchez Valencia)
Tampa, Florida -- The Bay area woman whose boyfriend tricked her into taking drugs, causing her to abort her pregnancy, is speaking out in support of a proposed law.
The bill, if passed, would make such awful acts a far more serious crime in Florida, but critics are concerned it may also be a step toward outlawing abortion.
Had there not been a federal law in place, Remee Lee said her former boyfriend, John Andrew Welden, may not have faced any charges at all in the death of her unborn child. And that, she said, is why there needs to be a state law as well.
"I know I'm not alone. I was deprived of my choice and my baby," said Lee.
Lee was joined at a news conference in Tampa by State Representative Larry Ahern, (R-Seminole), and State Senator Kelli Stargel, (R-Lakeland).
The two Bay area legislators announced a bill called the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act."
"Sad to say that this case would be the highlight of it," said Ahern, "but sometimes out of something so devastating as this some good can come of it."
The law would treat the end of any pregnancy, no matter how far along, even at conception, as potential murder or manslaughter if caused by a violent act.
Right now in Florida, such laws only apply to a viable fetus around the 18th to 22nd week of development.
"And I think with that, science is constantly changing. So I think we're just removing that ambiguous term and just saying 'child,'" said Stargel.
The couple's unborn child, whom Lee called Memphis, was less than two months into its development.
Welden accepted a federal plea deal over a week ago on product tampering charges, and now faces more than 13 years behind bars.
"I will not back down. I am here for myself and for all the other victims to spread awareness and to help prevent this from happening to other women," said Lee.
The bill contains clear exceptions for doctors performing abortions, and mothers who legally choose to terminate a pregnancy. But critics say any law that potentially defines life at conception is a step toward eventually taking away abortion rights as well.
"These are the people who want to establish personhood separate from the woman for the egg, for the fetus, for the zygote, and then if they can do that, that's their aim ... to outlaw abortion," said Toni Van Pelt, a regional spokesperson for the National Organization for Women.
Similar bills in the past have not made it through the legislature, but given Ms. Lee's sad case, they believe this time it may have a better chance.
This bill now heads to committee. If it clears that hurdle, it could be in front of the full Florida legislature when they meet again in March.
Lee's attorney tells WTSP 10 News that Remee Lee is still emotionally distraught over the loss of her unborn child, but is so committed to seeing the law passed that if she is asked to do so, she will travel to Tallahassee to testify before lawmakers.