Two doctors running a secret abortion clinic in Maryland are being charged with murder under the state’s fetal homicide law for aborting babies that could have survived outside the womb.
“This is a ground-breaking case that could have implications across the nation,” said Troy Newman, president of the pro-life group Operation Rescue.
Newman explained that the outcome “could blaze a legal trail that could eventually lead to major reforms in abortion laws.”
Doctors Steven C. Brigham of New Jersey and Nicola I. Riley of Utah were arrested on Dec. 28.
Brigham has been charged with five counts of both first-degree and second-degree murder, while Riley faces one count of each. Both physicians have also been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit murder.
Brigham secretly ran a late-term abortion clinic in Elkton, Maryland, despite not having a license to practice in the state. He hired Riley to work with him.
After beginning late-term abortions in his New Jersey office, Brigham would then move the laboring women to Maryland – which has more permissive abortion clinic laws – to complete the procedures.
Police who searched the Elkton abortion clinic said they found the remains of 35 aborted babies in a freezer.
Although late-term abortions are not illegal in Maryland, a 2005 fetal homicide law allows the intentional killing of a viable fetus to be prosecuted as murder.
While the law has previously been used to prosecute those who beat or kill pregnant women, this appears to be the first time it has been used against an abortionist.
Operation Rescue filed a complaint against Brigham with the Elkton State Attorney after a teenage girl suffered a ruptured uterus in a botched abortion in August, 2010.
The organization then launched grassroots efforts to ensure that the case would move forward.
An investigation conducted by Operation Rescue revealed Riley’s criminal background and the fact that both Brigham and Riley had previously lost their licenses to practice medicine and had been banned from performing abortions in any state.
Brigham and Riley are both currently being held without bail as they await upcoming extradition hearings.
“We have worked for over a year to make sure Brigham and Riley were brought to justice,” said Newman. “This is a victory for the pro-life movement.”