Controversial bill to recognize fetuses as homicide victims headed to Gov. Sununu's desk
CONCORD — The New Hampshire House narrowly passed SB66, (186-170) which assigns personhood in the case of homicide for fetuses beginning at 20 weeks.
Supporters say it is time New Hampshire join 38 other states including Massachusetts and California in adopting laws that protect wanted babies in the womb. Republican representative Yvonne Dean-Bailey, of Northwood, referenced a similar house bill defeated in the Senate in 2014, called Griffin's Law, named for an 8½-month-old fetus who was killed when his mother was seriously injured in a 2013 car crash. Dean-Bailey also referenced California's fetal homicide law in the case of Lacey Peterson who was eight-months pregnant when she was killed by her husband Scott Peterson in 2002. Scott was convicted of both first- and second-degree murder.
Supporters say SB66 has nothing to do with abortion, it simply grants separate protection under the law for 20-plus-week-old fetuses in a wanted pregnancy.
But opponents say the passage of SB66 is a slippery slope, and although good-intended, it can have some unintended circumstances, specifically against pregnant woman. Democratic representative from Durham, Marjorie Smith spoke out against the bill saying, "We must be very, very careful and not cause harm to the very families we are pledged to protect."
An amendment to the bill was presented before SB66, calling for enhanced penalties when a fetus is involved in a crime, but would not treat the fetus as a separate person. That amendment was defeated 192-162. The House also defeated two attempts to table the bill.
In 2015, both the House and Senate passed fetal homicide bills, but failed to agree on a final version. In 2012Then-Gov. John Lynch vetoed a similar bill in 2012.
The House and Senate have passed a fetal homicide similar bill, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. John Lynch. Current Governor Chris Sununu has previously said he will sign a fetal homicide bill into law if it reaches his desk.