2 abortion providers charged with murder in Md.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Authorities say two out-of-state doctors who traveled to Maryland to perform late-term abortions have been arrested and charged with multiple counts of murder, an unusual use of a law that allows for murder charges in the death of a viable fetus.
Dr. Steven Brigham, of Voorhees, N.J., was taken into custody Wednesday night and is being held in the Camden County jail, according to police in Elkton, Md. Authorities also arrested Dr. Nicola Riley in Salt Lake City and she is in jail in Utah. Each is awaiting an extradition hearing.
A grand jury indicted the two doctors after a 16-month investigation, police said.
The investigation began in August 2010 after what authorities say was a botched procedure at Brigham's clinic in Elkton, located near the border of Maryland and Delaware.
An 18-year-old woman who was 21 weeks pregnant suffered a ruptured uterus and an injured bowel, according to documents filed in a previous investigation by medical regulators. Rather than call 911, Riley drove her to a nearby hospital, where both she and Brigham were uncooperative and Brigham refused to give his name, documents show.
A search of the clinic after the botched abortion revealed a freezer containing 35 late-term fetuses, including one believed to have been aborted at 36 weeks, the documents show.
Brigham, 55, is charged with five counts of first-degree murder, five counts of second-degree murder and one count of conspiracy. Riley, 46, faces one count each of first- and second-degree murder and one conspiracy count.
The charges relate to the botched procedure as well as other abortions performed at the Elkton clinic or fetuses found there, authorities said.
Maryland is one of 38 states that allows murder charges to be brought against someone accused of killing a viable fetus. The 2005 state law has so far only been used for cases in which defendants were accused of assaulting or killing pregnant women.
The state law allows for murder or manslaughter charges to be brought against a person who intends to kill or seriously injure a fetus or who wantonly disregards the safety of a fetus. It does not apply to doctors administering lawful medical care and does not impinge on a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy.
...A Philadelphia doctor, Kermit Gosnell, faces murder charges in the deaths of seven newborn babies but has not been charged with killing fetuses.
The botched 2010 abortion led regulators to order Brigham to stop practicing medicine in Maryland without a license, and Riley's Maryland license was suspended. Brigham's New Jersey license was also suspended, leaving him without a valid license in any state, and New Jersey authorities are pursuing revocation of his license there. New Jersey authorities have cooperated with the Maryland criminal probe, said Thomas R. Calcagni, director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs.
...Brigham was not authorized to perform abortions in New Jersey after the first trimester, and regulators called his actions manipulative and deceptive.
In Maryland, licensed physicians can perform abortions before the fetus is deemed capable of surviving outside the womb, and abortions of viable fetuses are permitted to protect the life or health of the mother or if the fetus has serious genetic abnormalities.
Associated Press writer Beth DeFalco in Trenton, N.J., contributed to this report.