Dominick’s Law: Hearing Thursday in Concord

“Should the legislature find the result in this case as unfortunate as we do, it should follow the lead of many other states and revisit the homicide statutes as they pertain to a fetus.”

That’s the New Hampshire Supreme Court talking. The legislature might be listening. We’ll find out as HB 217 makes its way to the state senate’s Judiciary committee this week.  

“This case” is  State of New Hampshire v. Joshua Lamy, decided in 2009.  Lamy is in prison today and is likely to be there for at least the next four decades. He’s serving time for, among other things, one of the two lives he took when he smashed into a Manchester taxi at over 100 mph in 2006. He successfully appealed his conviction for the second death, arguing that in the eyes of the law, there was no crime because there was no victim.

The taxi driver, Brianna Emmons, was seven months pregnant. Her injuries and the resulting diminished blood flow to her child were severe enough to call for an emergency cesarean. She named the baby Dominick. Two weeks later, he succumbed to “perinatal asphyxia resulting from maternal abdominal trauma” (State of New Hampshire v. Joshua Lamy,  158 N.H. 511).  Those two weeks, bracketed by birth and death certificates, weren’t enough to make Dominick Emmons a victim under New Hampshire law.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision written by Justice James Duggan, went by existing New Hampshire law in overturning Lamy’s convictions for manslaughter and negligent homicide in Dominick’s death. . He refused to legislate from the bench. At the same time, as Duggan wrote in the line I quoted at the beginning of this post, the justices all recognized that existing law was inadequate.

HB 217 is a fetal homicide bill. As Justice Duggan pointed out, this concept hardly breaks new ground. It passed the House, albeit in what the original sponsor, Rep. Kathy Souza (R-Manchester), calls a “gutted” version. (Why was leadership moved to amend the original bill? Is the House Reproductive Rights Coalition that influential?)

Someone’s vote had to depend on the amendment, which changed the original bill that covered all preborn children to one that covers preborn children “24 weeks of gestation or more.” The amended bill commanded a fair majority in the House (213-125).

The committee hearing in the House brought forth people who call themselves “pro-choice”,  expressing concern that Roe v. Wade might be weakened by a fetal homicide law.  They evidently do not respect the choice made by Brianna Emmons to carry her child

Thirty states have some form of a fetal homicide law, and the last time I checked, Roe was very much in force. A fetal homicide law cannot stop a single abortion, for the simple reason that it applies only to pregnancies a mother has chosen to carry.

Drunk drivers & abusive partners can inflict pregnancy-ending injuries with literal impunity at any point in pregnancy until and unless New Hampshire passes a bill like the original version of HB 217. Think of it as Dominick’s law.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is scheduled for Thursday,  April 26, at 2:30 in room 101 of the Legislative Office Building.