Two weeks after voting to retain SB 66, the New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee has reconsidered its decision. Now, the fetal homicide measure will go to the House with a bipartisan committee recommendation of Ought to Pass with Amendment.
SB 66 in its current form would allow prosecutors the option of filing a homicide charge against anyone whose bad actions cause the death of a preborn child at 20 weeks’ gestation or later, if that death occurs against the will of the mother.
The next House session is June 1, and SB 66 will probably get its House vote that day. The message I’ll send my reps before that session is simple: support the committee recommendation on SB 66.
I’ll keep this post short, or at least not-too-long, because I need to get busy sending thank-yous to the twelve committee members who approved the bill. Two of them switched positions since the last go-round.
Notes and observations from the committee session of May 23:
The OTP/A vote was 12-8. The twelve: Reps. David Welch, Frank Sapareto, Dennis Fields, Bob Fesh, John Burt, Dennis Green, Kathleen Hoelzel, Carolyn Matthews, Jody McNally, Dave Testerman, Scott Wallace, and Roger Berube.
Reps. Wallace and Berube voted OTP/A after voting against SB 66 two weeks ago.
Rep. Berube is a Democrat, and he was treated to a snarky remark from a Democratic colleague before a brief party caucus, insinuating that Berube didn’t have to join in. He briskly shot back, “I’ve been a Democrat as long as you have.” And that put an end to snarky remarks uttered within hearing of the public.
Hoelzel and Matthews were sitting in for absent committee members Larry Gagne and Bonnie Ham.
Some Democrats on the committee objected to Rep. Burt’s reconsideration motion, with Rep. Laura Pantelakos saying “I feel very railroaded here today.” Reps. Renny Cushing and Shannon Chandley warned that the reconsideration vote had inadequate public notice. Neither Cushing nor Chandley commented on the fact that the public area of the hearing room was packed, with an overflow crowd trying to listen in from the doorway.
Rep. Cushing, a longtime legislator, said he had “no recollection” of the Criminal Justice committee reconsidering a two-week-old vote. Rep. Berube, another House vet, flatly disputed him, saying there had been reconsiderations on other bills “many a time.”
Rep. Pantelakos has always viewed fetal homicide legislation through the lens of abortion advocacy. She unsuccessfully attempted during the May 23 committee session to amend SB 66 into a be-kind-to-pregnant-ladies bill: enhanced penalties for killing a pregnant woman. “I’ve always wanted to find something to do for these people,” she said, using “these people” as a reference to families like the Crucittis and the Kenisons. Had Pantelakos’s amendment been adopted, her “something to do for these people” wouldn’t have applied to any assailant who killed a child but left the mother alive.
There is still a second fetal homicide bill, HB 156, in the same committee under “retained” status. Before the May 23rd debate on SB 66, Chairman Welch announced the names of the reps who will serve on a subcommittee to study HB 156: Chandley, Gagne, Burt, Ham, Sapareto. Rep. Pantelakos raised her hand and asked to be added. Welch agreed. HB 156 has an 8-week provision compared to SB 66’s 20-weeks, referring to the point in pregnancy at which the law might apply. As a retained bill, HB 156 won’t come before the full House until 2018.
Unmentioned by committee members on May 23, except for one oblique reference to “these people”: Griffin Kenison, Sara Crucitti, Dominick Emmons. Unmentioned: the Lamy case, which underscored the need for New Hampshire to join the dozens of other states that have fetal homicide laws. Unmentioned: the option of seeking an advisory opinion from the New Hampshire Supreme Court about the text of a fetal homicide bill.
But the committee did get around to OK’ing SB 66. That’s good enough for one day.