Dispute Over Fetal Homicide Bill

Five months after its introduction and first hearing, four months after its passage in the New Hampshire Senate, three months after its House hearing, and days after its House passage, language has been discovered in a fetal homicide bill that allegedly would permit assisted suicide and allow pregnant women to get away with murder.

House and Senate are scheduled to vote on a “fix” for that drafting error on Thursday, June 22. [Update, 6/22: both chambers voted to correct the error.]

New Hampshire Right to Life has made its objections to the bill public, based on other grounds: the fact that this fetal homicide bill would apply only in cases of pregnancies at or after the 20th week.

I have not heard any comment on either point from the bereaved families who have promoted fetal homicide legislation. [Update: see comment below from the grandfather of Griffin Donald Kenison.]

Anyone who wants SB 66 to be a personhood bill and is dissatisfied with the 20-week language now has another crack at House and Senate before June 22. In the event that SB 66 is killed, the retained HB 156 would remain open for further work and a 2018 vote on fetal homicide policy.

Whatever happens, I hope one question finds its way into the conversation: would SB 66 have allowed the New Hampshire Supreme Court in its 2009 Lamy decision to have upheld the defendant’s homicide conviction in the death of Dominick Emmons? The Court has the right to issue an advisory opinion on that.*

If SB 66 fails to address Lamy, then somehow the sponsors and the grieving families  have been wrong all this time about the bill’s purpose.

I don’t believe they’ve been wrong. Assuming no new news breaks abut the bill between now and June 22, I’m going to ask my reps to vote “yes” on correction to the drafting error in SB 66,** and to send the bill to the Governor’s desk.


*From the New Hampshire Constitution, under “Judiciary Power”:

[Art.] 74. [Judges to Give Opinions, When.] Each branch of the legislature as well as the governor and council shall have authority to require the opinions of the justices of the supreme court upon important questions of law and upon solemn occasions.

** Statement by Speaker of the House Shawn Jasper, from the House Calendar (vol. 39, #29) for the June 22 session, boldface added:

“Also in this House Calendar is an enrolled bills amendment that the full House will vote on during session. An enrolled bills amendment is a legislative device that we use in New Hampshire to clean up errors in the legislative drafting process. We typically adopt these amendments when the House is in recess by having the Clerk meet with two members and having a session where a member fills in ‘the chair’ and another member moves and adopts the amendment. (We also introduce bills, form committees of conference, and read enrolled bills reports in these sessions.) SB 66 had a drafting error that did not express the intent of the General Court when both bodies passed the bill, and as such (and as is proper) an enrolled bills amendment to clarify the intent has been drafted. Because of the rather political nature of this bill (SB 66, including a fetus in the definition of ‘another’ for purposes of certain criminal offenses), I have decided that the full House will take up the amendment in session this coming week.”

3 thoughts on “Dispute Over Fetal Homicide Bill”

  1. As always we have been working to make any needed corrections and have the Governor sign this bill into law. I have made clear that my family is in support of the Compromised reached between the NH House and NH Senate. As always during the legislative process you rarely get everything you desire. I and my family are deeply disappointed by our former allies in this endeavor now opposing SB66. Which is 100 times better than then what was offered last session. Please keep telling the Governor to sign this landmark legislation

    1. Thanks for your comment, Leon. It’s good to get your familys’s perspective on the situation. As a former legislator, you know better than I how challenging it can be for House and Senate to work out their differences. I hope that we’ll soon be able to celebrate passage of a bill that will truly honor Griffin’s memory.

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