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Abortion Doctors Charged with Murder

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on January 03, 2012 6:05 AM

Two out-of-state abortion doctors have been charged with murder under Maryland's fetal homicide law.

Dr. Steven Brigham, 55, of Voorhees, New Jersey, was arrested Wednesday night. Dr. Nicola Riley, 46, was arrested in Salt Lake City, Utah. Both are awaiting extradition hearings.

Brigham was charged with five counts of first-degree murder, five counts of second-degree murder, and a count of conspiracy. Riley faces a count of first degree murder, a count of second-degree murder, and a count of conspiracy.

The investigation started after the two doctors botched an abortion procedure on an 18-year-old woman in 2010. She was 21 weeks pregnant at a time. She suffered from a ruptured uterus and bowel injuries. Brigham and Riley took her to a hospital, where they were uncooperative.

Authorities later searched their clinic. They found a freezer containing 35 late-term fetuses, reports CBS News.

Dr. Brigham reportedly started the late-term abortions in New Jersey. The state outlaws the procedure. He then finished the abortion in Maryland. Maryland has more permissive abortion laws.

It is, however, one of 38 states that have fetal homicide laws. Maryland's law imposes criminal charges including murder or manslaughter when a viable fetus is killed. This typically means that the fetus must have been capable of prolonged life outside the womb.

This is why the two abortion doctors face murder charges. When they conducted the late-term abortions, they may have ended the life of a viable fetus. Both have had their medical licenses suspended. This is the first time the Maryland fetal homicide law has been applied to such a case. So far, the law has only been used in cases where defendants assaulted or killed pregnant women.

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