Miami-area police yesterday arrested an abortion clinic owner accused of killing a baby unexpectedly born alive at 21 weeks during a botched abortion.
Belkis Gonzalez is accused of tampering with evidence and practicing healthcare without a license that resulted in injury, the Miami Herald reported. If convicted on both charges, she faces up 15 years in prison.
Gonzalez was working at A GYN Diagnostic Center in Hialeah, Fla., when Sycloria Williams, 18, came in on July 20, 2006, to complete an abortion that was initiated the previous day. The doctor failed to show up for the appointment, and the baby girl, named Shanice Osbourne, was born alive in a clinic resting room.
Williams told police she saw the ''infant moving, making noises for approximately five minutes,'' according to an arrest warrant.
''Ms. 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 reads.
An anonymous caller tipped off police, but detectives found no remains, and Gonzalez denied performing any abortion procedures. After another tip, police returned six days later and found a baby inside a biohazard bag.
Prosecutors said the baby's badly decomposing body hampered the investigation. ''What is extraordinarily irritating about this case is the way Gonzalez jeopardized any legitimate analysis by tampering with the evidence,'' Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said.
The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office determined the cause of death to be ''extreme prematurity'' but concluded that Shanice was trying to breathe.
Pro-life advocates and several Florida Republican lawmakers had called for murder charges to be filed against the clinic owner and the abortion doctor, Pierre Renelique. But prosecutors announced on Tuesday that no manslaughter or murder charges would be filed against Gonzalez.
"I would have liked for it to have become a bona fide homicide charge. However, we do not make the laws,'' Hialeah Police Chief Mark Overton told the Miami Herald. "If anyone is outraged, I share it with them, but they have to understand we operate within the legal system.''
Gonzalez's attorney, Alberto Milian, said his client did nothing wrong. ''It's a far stretch and it's reaching,'' he said of the charges. "It's been a high-profile case, and there was a lot of pressure for the state attorney's office to do something.''
Renelique's license was revoked last month for improperly delegating his duties, and the abortion clinic has been closed.
Pro-life leaders said Gonzaelez's arrest was a step toward bringing justice for Shanice. "These charges are not exactly what we were hoping for, but we are thankful that Ms. Gonzalez will be finally held accountable for her part in the death of Shanice Osbourne," said the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition.
Last month, Mahoney held a press conference in Miami, asking for criminal charges to be filed in the case.
Operation Rescue President Troy Newman attributed the arrest to public pressure from pro-life activists. "For two and a half years we have worked to expose Gonzalez's actions that resulted in the death of Baby Shanice and bring her to justice," Newman said. "Today, we are gratified that Ms. Gonzalez is finally behind bars where she belongs."
"This victory belongs to all who called and wrote asking for justice to be done," he added. "There is little doubt this would have been swept under the rug and forgotten if not for the public pressure that was brought to bear."
In January, Williams filed a civil suit against Renelique, Gonzalez and others she claims are responsible for her daughter's death.
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