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Abortion provider Steven Brigham charged with murder in Maryland

 

Marie McCullough
Inquirer Staff Writer

Philadelphia Inquirer
12/31/2011

   
 

Steven Brigham, 55, the New Jersey-based abortion provider who has been in trouble for much of his two-decade medical career, has been charged by Maryland with murdering viable fetuses found at his secret Elkton, Md., clinic in August 2010, authorities said.

Brigham, of Voorhees, was arrested by Camden County police Wednesday and is in the county jail, police said Friday.

A codefendant, physician Nicola Riley, 46, was arrested in her hometown of Salt Lake City and is in jail there. Both are awaiting extradition hearings, police said.

Maryland is one of 38 states with a law recognizing fetuses that could have survived outside the womb as murder victims, but the 2005 statute has been used only in cases in which a pregnant woman was murdered or assaulted.

Thomas Brown, an Elkton lawyer representing Brigham, said he had not seen the charging document. He said Maryland authorities reneged on an agreement to let Brigham voluntarily surrender.

"It is my opinion that Dr. Brigham's arrest . . . was orchestrated to ensure that he remained in custody over this holiday weekend," Brown wrote in an e-mail.

Riley's lawyer, Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum of Baltimore, said, "We have not seen any paperwork. We think it's inappropriate for her to be held. . . . She's not a flight risk."
A Cecil County, Md., grand jury spent 16 months investigating the doctors. Cecil County prosecutors did not return calls seeking comment, and Elkton police offered no information beyond a brief news release.

Brigham's arrest was applauded by those on both sides of the abortion debate.

The Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, based in Staten Island, N.Y., said in a news release, "These two individuals are now where they belong and should be in jail for the rest of their lives."

Elizabeth Barnes, director of the Cherry Hill Women's Center, said, "I am glad that a predator is off the street."

She added: "I hope the public understands that Steve Brigham is an anomaly and that most abortion care is of high quality."

Barnes is among numerous abortion providers who have filed complaints with regulators about Brigham and his Voorhees-based company, American Women's Services (AWS), which has clinics in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Florida.

In a June 2009 letter to New Jersey's medical licensing board, Barnes detailed her suspicions that Brigham was starting third-trimester abortions in Voorhees and finishing them in a clandestine clinic.

   
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