As session winds down, fetal homicide bill quietly dies

New Hampshire will remain for now one of the few states without a fetal homicide law.  House and Senate could not agree on the language for HB 560, sponsored by Rep. Leon Rideout (R-Lancaster). There will be no committee of conference.

Most states along with the federal government have such laws, sometimes called Unborn Victims of Violence acts. Such legislation permits under certain circumstances the prosecution of assailants for causing the death of a preborn child against the will of the mother. 

New Hampshire legislators have considered fetal homicide legislation several times since the early 1990s. The New Hampshire Supreme Court urged legislators to take a look at such measures, since the absence of a fetal homicide law forced the Justices to overturn a drunk driver’s conviction for causing the death of a child (State v. Lamy [2009]).

House and Senate passed a fetal homicide bill in 2012 but fell short of overriding Governor Lynch’s veto. In each of the past three years, legislation has foundered on disputes between House and Senate over language. Eight weeks’ gestation, “viability,” “capable of sustained extrauterine life”: nothing has yet attracted a majority in both chambers.

Neither chamber’s leadership has seen fit to ask the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on whether either chamber’s version of fetal homicide legislation would satisfy the concerns expressed by the Court in Lamy.

It may be that by the time this kind of bill comes up again – and it will – yet another family will have a horror story about how their lost child counted for nothing in the eyes of the law.