Man who allegedly forced woman to swallow pill charged with felony abortion in Ulster County

Left: Thomas A. Pfeiffer. Photo via the Ulster County Sheriff's Office

Update 12/5/14: The Daily Freeman reports that Pfeiffer is a doctor; he is a licensed anesthesiologist working in the Hudson Valley. 

Original story: 

A 44-year-old Red Hook man is accused of strangling a woman and then forcing her to swallow "a pill that would cause an abortion" in the Ulster County town of Rosendale, according to a press release from the Ulster County Sheriff's Office.

Thomas A. Pfeiffer was arrested on Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. after sheriff's deputies arrived at a residence on Dewitt Mills Road in Rosedale to investigate a no-voice 911 call, the press release states.

The call came from the cell phone of the victim, said Detective Lieutenant Ed Brewster.

The victim, Pfeiffer's girlfriend, discovered she was pregnant by using a drug-store pregnancy test and then informed Pfeiffer, Brewster said. Pfeiffer allegedly responded violently, strangling the victim and then forcing her to consume a pill that "would cause an abortion."

"We believe it was what they call a Plan B pill," Brewster said. "That's what they're telling us. But we're not sure what the pill is." 

The Plan B pill, also known as the "morning-after pill," is not an abortion pill. Plan B is available over the counter in drug stores and prevents pregnancy from occurring by preventing an egg from implanting in the uterus.  According to the Plan B website, the pill "will not harm an existing pregnancy."

The pill commonly known as the "abortion pill" is Mifepristone, which was called RU-486 when it was being developed. It can terminate an early pregnancy, and is only available from a doctor. You cannot buy it in a pharmacy.

Pfeiffer is being charged with felony abortion and felony strangulation in the second degree, and with misdemeanor assault and criminal mischief. More charges are pending, police say.

Abortion in the second degree is a class E felony in New York, and a person is guilty of abortion in the second degree when he "commits an abortional act upon a female," according to the text of the lawExemptions exist for doctors performing abortions on women to save their lives or within 24 weeks of conception.

Can Pfeiffer be charged with abortion if he forced his girlfriend to swallow Plan B, which doesn't cause abortions? 

"The DA’s office down the road will have to handle that," Brewster said. The investigation is ongoing, he said. 

The victim was treated for wounds on her throat and neck at the HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston and has been released, the press release states. 

Pfeiffer was arraigned in the Town of Kingston Court and remanded to the Ulster County Jail on $50,000 cash bail.

Correction: A previous version of this story says that police found Pfeiffer "in the midst" of a struggle with the victim. In fact, according to Detective Ed Brewster, they arrived after the struggle had ended.