The committee reports are out. The votes are scheduled. The New Hampshire House and Senate are ready to deal with this year’s fetal homicide bills. Or perhaps they’re not. A sickeningly familiar scenario is set to be played out: a bill to make it a crime to kill a preborn child against the mother’s will is about to become an it’s-not-nice-to-kill-pregnant-ladies bill.
Deana and Nathan Crucitti came to the Senate Judiciary committee to describe in painful detail how a distracted driver caused the death of their full-term daughter, mere days before a scheduled cesarean delivery. Rep. Leon Rideout spoke to a House committee for the second year in a row about how his grandson Griffin died of injuries he sustained in utero in a collision caused by a careless driver. Rideout’s daughter Ashlyn, Griffin’s mother, sat next to Griffin’s father Daniel as Rideout told the committee how no criminal charge was even possible addressing the death of the baby.
Two bills were introduced this year, one by Rep. Rideout and one by Senator Regina Birdsell. The bills differed in the point of pregnancy at which a fetal homicide charge could be filed. Each sponsor brought in a family suffering from the violent termination of a wanted pregnancy. No committee member can possibly un-hear those stories or un-see the photos of the dead children.
And yet the committees split sharply on the bills. The House committee voted 10-7 in favor of passage as introduced, with the minority preferring an amendment to gut the bill. The Senate committee voted 3-2 to gut the bill, using the same language recommended in the House committee’s minority report.
The Senate does not print committee reports in its calendar. The House calendars are more revealing. Rep. Laura Pantelakos (D-Portsmouth) wrote for the minority – those seven dissenting members of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee – “HB 560 as written, again creates a contradiction in one of the frameworks underpinning the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision by establishing fetal rights separate from the woman’s rights.”
The minority in the House has proposed an amendment which not-so-coincidentally is identical to the Senate’s proposed amendment: enhanced penalties for killing a pregnant woman when the homicide results in miscarriage or stillbirth. The amendments would permit no criminal charge for the child’s death.
If those amendments are adopted, thereby gutting the bills, a pregnant woman would have to be dead before the law could take any notice of her child – and even then the notice would be an oh-by-the-way factor in sentencing, not a criminal charge.
There’s a kind of mental disease at work here, a condition with no name, insidious and destructive. It’s a condition that makes some unfortunate people see everything through the lens of abortion rights. The condition leads to distorted vision and perception; it makes the sufferer perceive threats that aren’t really there. It’s a condition that would be merely pitiful if it weren’t so destructive.
More than three dozen states have fetal homicide laws. Have you heard of Roe v. Wade being nullified in any of those states? Of course not – because that hasn’t happened. Whether one considers Roe v. Wade a good thing or not, fetal homicide legislation would not affect it in the slightest. As many abortion facilities in New Hampshire would still be running at full speed the day after enactment as the day before.
Abortion advocates, joined by alleged civil libertarians, opposed New Hampshire’s fetal homicide bills at hearings this year. They made the obligatory comments about how their hearts go out to the bereaved families, and then they said in effect “but …Roe.”
If women’s rights are so damn important – and they are – why are there legislators ready to deny and dismiss the right of Ashlyn Rideout and Deana Crucitti to bear the children they carried and wanted? Why isn’t it a crime to cause the termination of a pregnancy against the mother’s wishes? I have no idea what Rideout and Crucitti think about abortion rights, but they’ve been clear about the need to respect their right to choose to carry a child to term. Failure to pass a fetal homicide bill preserves the gaping hole in New Hampshire law in which the killing of a preborn child is a non-event.
New Hampshire can do better. We’ve come very close before, only to see votes drawn away by the entreaties of abortion advocates. That insidious condition, the I-see-Roe-everywhere attitude, has prevailed in every past New Hampshire vote on fetal homicide legislation. It’s time to cast aside that confining, blinding condition.
Let each legislator who wants to gut the bills stand in front of Ashlyn Rideout and Deana Crucitti, and say to them face-to-face “but …Roe.”