Senate fetal homicide bill: notes on a hearing

Today, the New Hampshire Senate’s version of a fetal homicide bill, SB 40, had its hearing at the House Criminal Justice committee. I was only able to stay for the first half-hour, which was enough for me to hear Rep. Geoffrey Hirsch ask sponsor Regina Birdsell, “Isn’t this supported by groups that want to establish personhood?”

The gentleman from Bradford is apparently worried that fetal homicide legislation is a backdoor way to get personhood into the books. Wait – haven’t we been there before? Oh, yes – same committee, four weeks ago, minority worrying about Roe. Someone is actually worried that those sneaky pro-lifers are going to take a bill that refers to wanted pregnancies terminated by the bad actions of a third party (not the mother, whose decisions are absolutely respected under fetal homicide laws), and pervert it into a bill to prosecute women who choose to terminate their unwanted pregnancies.

Senator Birdsell, an even-tempered woman not given to sharp retorts, answered that fetal homicide is not a pro-life/pro-choice issue. She urged the representative that instead of being concerned about groups, he should listen to Deana Crucitti.

She could have said, “C’mon, people – FOCUS!” She has far too much respect for her colleagues and for the institutions of House and Senate to resort to that. It was left to me to mutter the words under my breath – quietly enough, I hope.


 

With two fetal homicide bills under consideration, there will have to be reconciliation at some point. Rep. Leon Rideout, sponsor of Griffin’s Law (HB 560) in the House, testified in favor of SB 40 today. “Knowing Senator Birdsell, I think we can work together and make a very good bill.” SB 40 would go into effect at viability, while HB 560 would be effective eight weeks into pregnancy. Rideout doesn’t like the viability language, but in reply to a question from a committee member, he said he doesn’t think viability “guts” a fetal homicide bill. “It’s a step in the right direction.”

To the suggestion that fetal homicide laws undermine abortion rights, Rideout had a blunt reply. “Calling this pro-life versus pro-choice is BS.” Yes, he abbreviated it. He observed decorum and he made his point.


The Crucitti family was present, and I’m sorry I missed their testimony. I heard Deana Crucitti testify on SB 40 at its Senate hearing a few weeks back, and her story is searing.

Rideout brought three photos of Griffin, his grandson born prematurely but unable to survive for long due to injuries sustained in utero when the car his mother was driving was struck by another vehicle. He put those framed photos on the table in front of him as he testified. “This is the context of what we are talking about today.”

When he returned to his seat, Deana Crucitti quietly asked to see the photos. She looked at them one by one, shook her head gently, and embraced Rep. Rideout as she returned the pictures.


 

An ugly story out of Colorado is in the news: a pregnant woman was assaulted and overpowered by someone who proceeded to cut the preborn child out of the woman’s body. Colorado has no fetal homicide law. There can be no criminal charge in the child’s death, although the assailant will certainly face charges in the assault on the woman.

Yes, that came up in today’s hearing. It will no doubt be mentioned again later this week when Rep. Rideout’s bill has another hearing.