Rep. Leon Rideout was more than a colleague when he spoke yesterday to the New Hampshire House’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee. He spoke as a grandfather whose grandson Griffin died shortly after his premature birth triggered by an auto collision – and who in the eyes of the law was no victim at all. He spoke as father to Ashlyn, who was 7½ months pregnant with Griffin and was herself injured in the collision, caused by another driver ignoring a traffic signal. He spoke for his large extended family, who helped fill the public section of the hearing room.
Rideout is sponsoring HB 1503, a fetal homicide bill that he’s calling Griffin’s Law. It should be a no-brainer. Of course, the last try in 2012 should have been a no-brainer, too. The first efforts around 1990, promoted by the late Rep. Carolyn Brady (R-Manchester), should have gained traction at the time. But they didn’t. Rep. Rideout’s family wanted to make sure that everyone in the room knew why the law is necessary.
He apparently has colleagues who aren’t yet sold on the idea. Rideout took to Facebook today to call on HB 1503 supporters to reach out to Rep. David Huot (D-Laconia).
“Thank You To Everyone That Came to The Hearing and Showed Support. It was a Great showing !! We have a Battle before the Committee Execs #Griffinslaw Rep Huot is going to bring an amendment that basically guts the bill and leaves NH basically where it is today Please E mail / Call Him and tell him not to amend HB 1503 Phone: (603)524-7641
Huot is reportedly attempting to accommodate the concerns of abortion advocates. He might want to read Lamy first.
Rideout made a point of reminding the committee about the Lamy case, in which the state supreme court suggested that the legislature amend the homicide statutes to address what happened in situation’s like Griffin’s. He handed a copy of the case to each committee member.
The “blue sheet,” signed by people who couldn’t attend the hearing but wanted to register an opinion on the bill, had many signatures. Many were from fellow state representatives who had to attend their own committee hearings. Almost all the names on the sheet had “support the bill” checked off.
The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union and NARAL Pro-Choice NH showed up to try to put the brakes on the bill. Devon Chaffee for NHCLU and Laura Thibault of NARAL each made an effort to acknowledge the grief of families like Rep. Rideout’s who lose a child and find that the criminal justice system has nothing to say to the assailants. Then came the Buts and Howevers. “This does not go far enough to safeguard a woman’s rights,” said Chaffee. “This tends to erode women’s rights. While this bill includes an exemption for abortion, if passed it will contribute to the nationwide effort to establish a framework to overturn Roe v. Wade,” added Thibault.
The bill explicitly does not apply to ANY fetal death that occurs at the mother’s behest. This means abortion wouldn’t trigger any charge against anyone. Further, thirty-eight states already have fetal homicide laws, according to Rideout, and not one has been overturned. Clear enough? Not to NHCLU and NARAL. They simply can’t abide fetal homicide laws. Chaffee went so far as to say New Hampshire law already covers fetal homicide. The Lamy case puts the lie to that.
It’s fitting that Chaffee and Thibault found their testimony bracketed by Griffin’s grandparents. Rep. Rideout opened the hearing. Later, Shirley Kenison-Ward, “Grammy Shirley,” made sure the committee knew this was no transitory cause. “We’re on a crusade,” she said tearfully, with a relative standing next to her displaying photos to the committee. “Our family is on a mission to make sure if a person causes bodily harm or death to an unborn child due to violence or criminal behavior, there will be consequences.”
Will the bill be gutted, as Rep. Rideout fears? What language is Rep. Huot proposing? What could possibly allay the fears of abortion advocates while still allowing the criminal prosecution of people who cause a pregnant woman like Ashlyn to lose her son only weeks before she was due to give birth? It is likely to be a few days before the CJPS committee takes a vote. Rep. Leon Rideout will be watching very closely.