Category Archives: New Hampshire legislature

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.”

Situational Personhood

During the debate preceding the recent vote on the fetal homicide bill, one New Hampshire state representative made her way to the House gallery to hand me a thick bundle of stapled papers. She pointed out the top page to me, and then left without further comment to take her seat on the House floor.

The bundle was an amendment to a Commerce bill that had just been voted on. The topic was trusts, basically property, and the protection and conveyance thereof. Check out the words that pass without controversy when the subject is trusts.

Unborn person.
Ironically, at the moment I read that, a representative was making a speech cautioning that a fetal homicide law would confer personhood on the fetus. No word on whether she takes issue with the term “unborn person” as it applies to trust law.

Legislation addressing unborn victims of violence is not personhood legislation. If it were, with nearly 40 states and the federal government having one or another form of a fetal homicide law, Roe v. Wade would have been kicked to the curb long ago.

The irony meter jumped up another notch as the omigosh-not-personhood politician at the microphone switched between “fetus” and “baby” as she spoke against the bill.

I’d like to think she’s teetering on the edge of a revelation, for all her thus-far adamant abortion advocacy.

 

Postscript to House vote on SB 66: the Naysayers

Steve MacDonald over at Granite Grok was blunter than I after the SB 66 vote in the House: “NH Democrats Defend the Right to End a Woman’s Pregnancy Against Her Will.” That’s harsh, but tough to refute, especially in view of all of the day’s roll calls on the bill – not just the main one.

As promised in my report on the SB 66 vote in the New Hampshire House, here’s the list of state representatives who made it clear that they want no part of anyone’s fetal homicide bill.  Two Republicans and one Libertarian are on the list along with 141 Democrats.

One can argue that there was no single “clean” vote among any of the six roll calls on the bill. Using all six, though, it’s fair to assess opposition to the concept of fetal homicide in general and SB 66 in particular. Each of these reps:

The representatives are listed below by county. All are Democrats except for Libertarian Joseph Stallcop and Republicans Carolyn Gargasz and Neal Kurk.

Belknap County

David Huot.

Carroll County

Thomas Buco, Edward Butler, Jerry Knirk.

Cheshire County

Michael Abbott, Richard Ames, Paul Berch, John Bordenet, Daniel Eaton, Barry Faulkner, Donovan Fenton, Cathryn Harvey, Douglas Ley, John Mann, David Meader, Henry Parkhurst, William Pearson, Marjorie Shepardson, Joseph Stallcop, Bruce Tatro, Lucy Weber.

Coos County

Larry Laflamme, Wayne Moynihan, Yvonne Thomas, Edith Tucker.

Grafton County

Susan Almy, Polly Campion, Roger Dontonville, Patricia Higgins, Timothy Josephson, Kevin Maes, Mary Jane Mulligan, Sharon Nordgren, Steven Rand, Suzanne Smith, George Sykes, Andrew White.

Hillsborough County

Jessica Ayala, Robert Backus, Jane Beaulieu, Amanda Bouldin, Shannon Chandley, Skip Cleaver, Patricia Cornell, David Cote, Daniel Sullivan, Linda DiSilvestro, Joel Elber, Armand Forest, Mary Freitas, Carolyn Gargasz, Ken Gidge, Jeff Goley, Suzanne Harvey, Mary Heath, Christopher Herbert, Janice Schmidt, Marty Jack, Amelia Keane, Mark King, Patricia Klee, Neal Kurk, Peter Leishman, David Lisle, Mark MacKenzie, Latha Mangipudi, Jonathan Manley, Joelle Martin, Richard McNamara, Michael O’Brien, Richard O’Leary, Patrick Long, Marjorie Porter, Carol Roberts, Cindy Rosenwald, Kendall Snow, Catherine Sofikitis, Timothy Smith, Robert Walsh, Connie Van Houten, Kermit Williams.

Merrimack County

Caroletta Alicea, Christy Bartlett, Clyde Carson, David Doherty, Karen Ebel, Mary Gile, Howard Moffett, Paul Henle, James MacKay, Linda Kenison, David Luneau, Mel Myler, Chip Rice, Beth Rodd, Katherine Rogers, Dianne Schuett, Steve Shurtleff,  Alan Turcotte, Mary Beth Walz, David Woolpert.

Rockingham County

Debra Altschiller, Skip Berrien, Michael Cahill, Jacqueline Cali-Pitts, Renny Cushing, Charlotte DiLorenzo, Michael Edgar, Paula Francese, Tamara Le, Dennis Malloy, Rebecca McBeath, Mindi Messmer, Kate Murray, Pamela Gordon, Ellen Read, Peter Somssich, Gerald Ward.

Strafford County

Peter Bixby, Wayne Burton, Jacalyn Cilley, Donna Ellis, Isaac Epstein, Sherry Frost, Chuck Grassie, Timothy Horrigan, Sandra Keans, Hamilton Krans, Marjorie Smith, Lin Opderbecke, Peter Schmidt, Jeff Salloway, Catt Sandler, Judith Spang, Dale Sprague, Kenneth Vincent, Janet Wall.

Sullivan County

John Cloutier, Raymond Gagnon, Suzanne Gottling, Virginia Irwin, Lee Oxenham, Andrew Schmidt, Linda Tanner.


N.H. House Approves Fetal Homicide Bill, SB 66

After lengthy debate and four preliminary roll call votes, the New Hampshire House on June 1 voted 186-170 to approve fetal homicide legislation. SB 66 now goes back to the Senate for expected concurrence with a House amendment. From there, the Governor’s desk awaits.

Roll call on SB 66, main motion of Ought to Pass with Amendment

I need to write some thank-yous to my reps. Maybe you do, too.  Continue reading N.H. House Approves Fetal Homicide Bill, SB 66

Fetal Homicide and Women’s Rights: Remember These Women

if fetal homicide legislation is going to be cast as a women’s rights issue, the women who lost children and grandchildren belong front and center. Make sure your state reps know about these women, before the June 1 vote on SB 66. No excuses.


I’m not going to link to the mendacious social media posts that have gone up in recent days against the fetal homicide bill whose vote in the New Hampshire House is only a few days away. It’s enough to know that the vote tally must be terribly close, or the opposition wouldn’t be so intense.

The general tone of the opponents is that this is a women’s rights issue; they’re-coming-for-your-uterus. I wish that were a parody, but this is what fetal homicide is up against.

The truth of the matter is that SB 66 would not apply to any fetal death occurring with the mother’s consent (e.g. abortion) or due to any act performed by a health care provider in the course of the provider’s professional duties. But that’s the truth, and as the saying goes, a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets its pants on.

It’s time to remember the women whose losses have illuminated the need for fetal homicide legislation in New Hampshire. Think of their rights, their thwarted choices, their children and grandchildren.

What follows is taken from my coverage of fetal homicide bills in New Hampshire since 2012.

Brianna Emmons

The death of Brianna Emmons’s son Dominick in 2006 was at issue in the Lamy case decided by the New Hampshire Supreme Court in 2009.

Joshua Lamy is in prison today and is likely to be there for at least the next four decades. He’s serving time for, among other things, one of the two lives he took when he smashed into a Manchester taxi at over 100 mph in 2006. He successfully appealed his conviction for the second death, arguing that in the eyes of the law, there was no crime because there was no victim.

The taxi driver, Brianna Emmons, was seven months pregnant. Her injuries and the resulting diminished blood flow to her child were severe enough to call for an emergency cesarean. Ms. Emmons named her son Dominick. Two weeks later, he succumbed to “perinatal asphyxia resulting from maternal abdominal trauma” (State of New Hampshire v. Joshua Lamy, 158 N.H. 511). Those two weeks, bracketed by birth and death certificates, weren’t enough to make Dominick Emmons a victim under New Hampshire law.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision written by Justice James Duggan, went by existing New Hampshire law in overturning Lamy’s convictions for manslaughter and negligent homicide in Dominick’s death.   The justices unanimously recognized that existing law was inadequate.

“Should the legislature find the result in this case as unfortunate as we do, it should follow the lead of many other states and revisit the homicide statutes as they pertain to a fetus.”

In vetoing 2012’s fetal homicide bill, the first attempt to rectify the law that forced the Lamy decision, then-Governor John Lynch falsely claimed that “this legislation … would allow the State of New Hampshire to prosecute a pregnant woman”. The governor missed the plain language of the bill in front of him. In fact, neither 2012’s bill nor the 2017 version (SB 66) would apply to any pregnancy termination caused by any person acting with the consent of the mother.

Ashlyn Rideout

As described by her father, Ashlyn Rideout was 7½ months pregnant in 2013 when she was injured in a motor vehicle collision. In the hours following the collision, Ms. Rideout’s baby son Griffin was delivered via emergency cesarean. Her son did not survive.

Any fault on the part of one of the drivers was irrelevant under law as far as Griffin was concerned. Prosecutors did not even have the option of considering Griffin’s death in determining what, if any, charges to file in connection with the collision.

Since then, I’ve seen Ms. Rideout at hearings on fetal homicide legislation. She’s been quiet, leaving the testimony to others in her family. She’s been waiting, year after year, for passage of a fetal homicide law.

Shirley Ward-Kenison

Griffin’s grandmother, “Grammy Shirley,” pleaded with legislators in 2014. Griffin’s death was her loss, too.  She wanted to make sure the legislators knew that fetal homicide legislation was no transitory cause. “We’re on a crusade,” she said tearfully, with a relative standing next to her displaying photos to the committee. “Our family is on a mission to make sure if a person causes bodily harm or death to an unborn child due to violence or criminal behavior, there will be consequences.”

A few days later, as a House committee voted on the 2014 bill, Nashua Rep. Latha Mangipudi told her colleagues about her concerns with fetal homicide legislation. “It’s very unsettling for me to say, I mean, I see the intent [of the original bill], but we are addressing one aspect of fetus as person. That’s an undue burden. I’m very uncomfortable [with this], as a woman.”

Shirley Kenison-Ward could have swapped notes with the legislator about how uncomfortable a woman can be.

Deana Crucitti

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. 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 baby Griffin’s family: the child simply never existed, under state law.

Deana Crucitti testified on a 2015 New Hampshire fetal homicide bill with her husband Nathan at her side. It’s clear that eleven years have 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.


In 2017, the House vote on SB 66 is scheduled for June 1. Whether or not SB 66 passes, a similar bill, HB 156, is in “retained” status and must get a House vote before crossover day in March 2018.


 

House Committee Changes Course on Fetal Homicide

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.