Senate fetal homicide bill brings out a family’s devastating loss

With Griffin’s Law under consideration in the New Hampshire House, the state Senate is looking at a fetal homicide bill of its own. Senator Regina Birdsell (R-Hampstead) introduced Senate Bill 40 this morning to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Regina Birdsell (photo: reginabirdsell.com)
Sen. Regina Birdsell (photo: reginabirdsell.com)

The two bills would both allow criminal prosecution for causing the death of a fetus against the mother’s will. SB 40 differs from Griffin’s Law (HB 560) in that it would become effective later in pregnancy, at viability. Former Senator Bob Letourneau of Derry returned his old committee today to support Birdsell’s bill and to introduce the parents of a child whose death was ignored under state law, as was the death of Griffin Kenison.

Deana Crucitti was at full term with a little girl in early 2004 – only a few days away from a planned cesarean delivery. The car she was driving was hit head-on. Mrs. Crucitti sustained serious injuries, and the impact of the collision ruptured the amniotic sac around her baby. Despite valiant medical efforts, the baby did not survive.

Charge against the driver whose car struck Mrs. Crucitti’s: vehicular assault, for injuries inflicted on Mrs. Crucitti and her preschool-age son. No charge was possible for the baby’s death. As Sen. Leon Rideout explained in detail to the House Criminal Justice committee at the recent hearing on HB 560, New Hampshire uses the centuries-old “born-alive” rule in determining whether a child has been killed by another’s action.

Without a fetal homicide law, the Crucittis got the same shock as Griffin Kenison’s family: the child simply never existed, under state law.

Deana Crucitti testified today with her husband Nathan at her side. It’s clear that eleven years has not dulled the pain of their daughter’s death. They brought with them a photo of their daughter as she looked after her emergency delivery at a hospital shortly after the collision. Their little girl would have survived except for the trauma inflicted by the collision.

The committee chairman, Sen. Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry) spoke for all her colleagues in expressing condolences to the Crucittis. Committee members found nothing to question or challenge in Mrs. Crucitti’s testimony.

As with Griffin’s Law, the New Hampshire chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union registered its objections against SB 40. Despite clear language in the bill, despite the fact that SB 40 would come into effect later in pregnancy than HB 560, ACLU still maintains that fetal homicide laws threaten women’s rights. Devon Chaffee, ACLU-NH executive director, pressed instead for enhanced penalties for crimes against pregnant women. Nothing for the baby’s death by itself, though; such legislation, in her words, “threatens to erode women’s rights.”

Senators Birdsell and Letourneau, both testifying before ACLU was called, addressed that concern. “I don’t want to see this piece of legislation as a pro-choice/pro-life issue,” said Birdsell. “Progressive states have passed these laws. We specifically chose the language to protect the woman as much as possible.” Letourneau concurred. “This is not a pro-life bill. This is not a pro-choice bill. This is a women’s bill.”

No date for a committee vote has been set.