John Andrew Welden: How Should Laws Treat People Who Trick Others Into Getting Abortions?


John Andrew Welden, a 28-year-old son of a Florida fertility doctor, was indicted by a federal grand jury for product tampering and first-degree murder. Walden tricked his girlfriend, 26-year-old Remee Lee, into taking Cytotec, a pill used to cause abortions. Walden initially told Lee that his father diagnosed her with a bacterial infection and prescribed her with Amoxicillin, an antibiotic. Walden relabeled a bottle of Cytotec with an “Amoxicillin” label and gave it to Lee. After being six weeks and five days pregnant, Lee began to bleed at work and went to the hospital where she was later informed that the pills she have been taking were in fact Cytotec. On top of Welden’s federal charges, Lee is also suing Welden for battery, intentional infliction of emotional harm, and punitive damages. Welden’s father has not been charged with any crime, as it appears that he was unaware of his son’s actions.

The following video shows an interview with Lee and details about the case:

The federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004 is the explanation for why his crime is considered first-degree murder. The act defines an unborn child as “a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.” Because of this act, Welden can serve up to life in prison. However, in Florida, abortions are allowed for gestation periods under 24 weeks. Is a deceptive abortion the reason why this fetus is considered a human life?

An article on Ethics Alarms brings up thought-provoking points:“A seven-week fetus is not treated as a human life if a mother chooses to have an abortion, and a doctor performs it. This must mean, in any sane, fair and ethical system, that it is not a human life. If it is not a life if a doctor aborts it, it isn’t a life if a boyfriend tricks the mother into aborting it. How can it be? The fetus hasn’t changed, and the conduct hasn’t changed.”

Welden has obviously committed a crime and it cannot be justified. However, the question is, why are we addressing this abortion with different definitions of fetus status and personhood than the ones we use normally?

Ethics Alarms draws an interesting comparison of this case to slavery: “An owner could kill a slave, and it wasn’t murder, just as a potential mother can abort the future baby she is carrying, for it is her body, just as it is his plantation — and she’s not committing murder either. If someone else killed the slave, well, that was a crime, but a property crime—after all, black slaves then, like the unborn now, just weren’t considered human beings.”

Although pro-life advocates can use this case as an argument for personhood, pro-choice advocates can also argue that Welden’s trickery is a violation of pro-choice rights. Perhaps new laws need to be put in place to address specific situations such as these.