TALLAHASSEE, FL, April 25, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The killing of an unborn baby during a crime carried out against its mother will soon be treated as a separate felony in the state of Florida, thanks to State Bill House Bill 59.
The bill was passed by Florida legislature, 25-14, on Wednesday and now awaits the signature of pro-life Governor Rick Scott. The bill's sponsors – Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, and state Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland – believe Scott will sign the act.
Modeled after the federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act signed by President George W. Bush in 2004, H.B. 59 makes the killing of an unborn child a separate offense from the harm inflicted on its mother. Should this bill be signed into law, Florida will become the 23rd state to have such a law in place.
Previously, Florida law only extended to an “unborn quick child,” defined as a baby “capable of meaningful life outside the womb.” H.B. 59 would remove the term “quick” to include babies at all stages of development.
The bill had been stalled in the State Senate for over three years, but gained momentum because of a case of Remee Jo Lee, a young woman whose boyfriend tricked her into taking an abortion-inducing drug.
Lee and her parents were overjoyed to hear of the bill’s passing.
“This is a happy, happy day,” said Lee. “If one baby is saved, that means everything. I really hope that this will save the lives of mothers and of babies.”
Last February, Lee became pregnant and was overjoyed at the news. But her boyfriend, John Andrew Welden managed to obtain Cytotec (misoprostol) and covered the bottle with a fake label for Amoxicillin. He then gave it to Lee, saying his physician father had prescribed antibiotics.
Welden confessed to his actions at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. However, because of Florida’s law, prosecutors could not have charged him with murder under the federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act, nor under any Florida statute, if he had not been charged with the federal charge of product tampering.
Because he entered a guilty plea to product tampering and mail fraud, Welden avoided life imprisonment without parole for violating the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. He is now carrying out a sentence of 13 years and eight months.
With the passage of H.B. 59, however, such violence committed against unborn babies will be regarded as a felony, regardless of the stage of development.
Stargel said that this law could also make men think twice about abusing their wives. “If you attack a woman, you need to be careful, because she may be pregnant,” she said.
The bill was overwhelmingly opposed by Democrats. No Democratic Senator and only one Democratic Representative supported the bill. They expressed concern that this law could be used in instances of involuntary criminal acts or if the mother was not aware she was pregnant.
“I just don't want us to be out of balance,” said Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. “I know how important it is to protect women from acts of domestic violence, but as we navigate this issue we just have to make sure that we factor everything that we know about that we can deal with.”