No fetal homicide law this year

May 10, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

On Tuesday, May 9 a House committee voted to keep a fetal homicide bill for further study.  The means the full House will not vote on the issue until next year.

The bill, SB 66, would allow prosecutors to file murder charges if a pregnant woman is the victim of a crime and her fetus does not survive.  The law would only apply to fetuses twenty weeks and older.  

The legislature has considered several other fetal homicide bills in recent years, and even passed a bill in 2012.  Then-Gov. John Lynch vetoed the bill.  Since then legislators have failed to agree on the age of fetuses that should be included in the law.

Supporters of a fetal homicide law argue that unborn children can be the victims of crime as much as other people.  They point to cases such as the brutal attack on Michelle Wilkins in Colorado, whose baby was cut from her stomach and left for dead in a bathtub. 

Those supporters wanted a vote in the full House this year.

“This bill has been around for many, many years,” said Rep. Dave Testerman. “A little more study, a bit more looking at it won’t change anyone’s opinion, won’t bring up any new facts.” 

Although fetal homicide laws are written to exclude legal abortions, opponents argue that the laws are a backdoor way to give fetuses the same rights as people.  Broadly written fetal homicide laws may even be used to prosecute mothers for behavior that leads to miscarriage.

“I really don’t think this is the time to create a standard of personhood for a fetus without fully exploring the effects of considering a fetus as a separate person,” said Rep. Shannon Chandley. “It will affect so many of our laws that we need to give this further consideration.” 

Do you support a fetal homicide law in New Hampshire?  When we asked our community about this issue in February, commenters were evenly split on the issue.  Click here to read our summary of the discussion. 

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