MIAMI (BP)–A Florida woman was arrested March 3 for her role in a shocking botched abortion case that has garnered national attention, although she was not charged with murder as some were wanting.
Belkis Gonzalez, 43, was charged with tampering with evidence and unlicensed practice of a health-care profession resulting in serious bodily injury for her role in a 2006 abortion at a Hialeah, Fla., abortion clinic she owns. Both are felony charges and could result in up to 15 years in prison.
According to the warrant, Gonzalez took matters into her own hands when then-18-year-old Sycloria Williams — who was waiting for the doctor to arrive — delivered a live baby girl in the clinic. With the doctor still not at the clinic, Gonzalez “came into the room, cut the umbilical cord, swept the infant into a trash can with a red bag along with the gauze used during the procedure, and took the bag out of the room,” the warrant states. Gonzalez then hid the body for a week until police were able to find it. By then it had begun decomposing, the warrant states.
Prior to the botched abortion, the clinic had estimated the gestational age of the baby to be 23.5 weeks. A medical doctor told the office of Miami Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez — who filed the charges — that he would put the age of the baby at 21.5 weeks.
Whatever the case, the baby may have survived if given proper medical treatment. A baby born in 2007 just prior to 22 weeks at Baptist Children’s Hospital in Miami survived and went home after a nearly four-month stay. Quadruplets in Nebraska born at 23 weeks last year survived.
Williams, who now regrets the abortion, has filed a wrongful death and medical negligence civil suit against Gonzalez and the clinic. She claims she saw the baby — who she named Shanice — gasping for air before Gonzalez came in the room. Williams is being represented by the Thomas More Society.
“We welcome the fact that after two and a half years the Dade County prosecutor has seen fit to bring criminal charges, but we’re absolutely outraged that there is no homicide charge,” Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, told Baptist Press. “It’s absolutely clear that the child was born alive and then steps were taken to kill that child.”
The medical doctor who gave the state attorney a gestational age also told the state that while he believed the baby girl was not viable, she nonetheless was born alive, the warrant states.
The medical examiner who had conducted an autopsy could not determine if the baby was born alive. The examiner, though, did issue a birth certificate, saying that nothing in the autopsy refuted Williams’ claim that the baby was moving.
“What is extraordinarily irritating about this case is the way Gonzalez jeopardized any legitimate analysis by tampering with the evidence,” Rundle said, according to The Miami Herald.
Rundle filed the charges following an investigation spanning two and a half years. In recent days House Republicans had sent a letter to Rundle expressing their outrage at Gonzalez’s actions. Brejcha criticized Rundle for not filing homicide charges.
“The prosecutor has fudged the line between legal abortion — horrific as that is — and infanticide,” Brejcha he said. “There was eyewitness testimony that the baby was born alive — including testimony on the part of those working in the abortion facility.”
The botched abortion took place in July 2006 and was intended to be a two-part process. Williams went to a Miami abortion clinic, where the doctor, Pierre Jean-Jacque Renelique, began part one of the procedure by inserting laminaria sticks to dilate her cervix and giving her a prescription of Cytotec to take later that night to begin inducing labor, the civil suit states. She was told to come back the next day to a different clinic in Hialeah, just outside of Miami.
Williams arrived at that clinic the next day, but Renelique didn’t show up, at least not on time. After waiting about two hours for the doctor to arrive, Williams began feeling nauseated and was placed in a patient waiting room, given a robe and told to lie down. At around 2 o’clock that day — and with Renelique still not at the clinic and no one in the room — Williams felt an immense pain and delivered a baby girl. The staff began screaming “and pandemonium ensued,” and Williams “watched in horror and shock as her baby writhed with her chest rising and falling as she breathed,” the suit states.
With the baby trying to breathe, a staff member, Gonzalez, came in the room and used orange shears to cut the umbilical cord. She then put it in the biohazard bag. Renelique later arrived and told her the “hard part was over,” the suit states. He gave her an IV and a shot, cleaned her up and sent her home, the suit says.
The Florida Board of Medicine revoked Renelique’s medical license Feb. 6.
The irony, pro-lifers say, is that there would have been no controversy if the abortion procedure had been performed legally. Williams was scheduled to receive a dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion, which involves dismembering the baby while still in the womb piece by piece — an arm here, a leg there. Roe v. Wade and its companion case Doe v. Bolton allowed abortion at any stage of pregnancy for any reason. U.S. abortion laws are more liberal than most of the industrialized world, including France, Great Britain, Germany and Russia.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.