Tag Archives: fetal homicide

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.

 

House committee to take up retained bills 5/23, including fetal homicide

The New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee has scheduled a work session for Tuesday, May 23 on several retained bills, including two on fetal homicide (HB 156 and SB 66).

Also on the agenda is HB 287, which was introduced as a bill to study decriminalization of prostitution. All three of these bills were retained by the committee earlier this session, preventing them from coming before the full House.

A work session has no predetermined outcome. It is possible that the committee may vote to reconsider an earlier decision to retain a bill.

Watch the blog’s Facebook page for updates on May 23.


Bipartisan error: House committee rejects fetal homicide bill, then sets it aside

Rep. John Burt of the New Hampshire House Criminal Justice committee reported from the State House today that the committee “retained” SB 66, joining HB 156 in the pile of bills kicked aside for a vote in 2018.

Before the vote to retain, Burt moved “ought to pass with amendment” on SB 66. His motion failed, 10-11. Two Republicans, Carolyn Gargasz of Hollis and Scott Wallace of Danville, joined the committee’s Democrats in opposing the “ought to pass” motion.

Rep. John Burt photo of House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee vote on SB 66. Motion was Ought to Pass as Amended.

 

Rep. Wallace is a first-term representative. Rep. Gargasz is serving her 9th term.

The bill, whose chief sponsor was Sen. Regina Birdsell, had passed the Senate 14-10 before moving to the House.

What does “retain” mean?


The immediate effect is to prevent the bill from coming to a House vote this year, giving the committee (or a subcommittee named by the chairman) time to look at the bill and study it some more. A House vote will come in 2018.

In practice, a vote to retain means whatever the committee wants to mean. The “study” could be serious or it could be a joke.  A subcommittee might meet once, or not. The intention might be to strengthen the bill or it might be to shove the bill under the rug.

Post-study, the committee will then take vote later this year – possibly as late as late fall – to recommend Ought to Pass or Inexpedient to Legislate for House action in January 2018.

Note that both of this year’s fetal homicide bills were retained. It is likely that a study, if seriously undertaken, would look at both bills at the same time.

Another missed opportunity

This is the fourth full legislative biennium since the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s 2009 Lamy decision. In 2012, a fetal homicide bill actually made it to Governor Lynch’s desk, where he vetoed it. An override attempt failed.

So far, that’s the high-water mark for fetal homicide legislation in New Hampshire.

This is the fourth legislative biennium when House and Senate have refused to ask the state Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on a fetal homicide bill. Whether leadership has been Democrat or Republican, all have failed to seek that opinion.

Governor Sununu announced before last year’s election that he would support a fetal homicide bill.  It remains to be seen whether that support will extend to reaching out to legislators studying the retained bills.

The Crucitti family may have to keep telling the story of their daughter. The Kenisons may have to keep speaking out about Griffin.

All the while, the Lamy decision rests in dusty pages and a seldom-used URL, after it served to overturn a conviction of a drunk driver who injured a pregnant woman, prompted cesarean delivery of her child, and left that child with injuries that caused his death two weeks later.

The Justice who wrote the decision noted that the current state of New Hampshire law left the court with no other choice. “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.”

Since 2009, one legislator after another has decided no, I don’t find the outcome as unfortunate as the Justices did. Eleven of those legislators prevailed today.

Fetal homicide: nudge the committee

If you want to see fetal homicide legislation pass in New Hampshire this year, you might want to send a friendly emailed nudge to the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Brief, polite, nothing cut-and-pasted: recommend Ought to Pass on SB 66, without weakening the bill’s language. You’ll certainly want to send an email if one of your own reps is on the committee (see the table below).

The committee earlier this year voted to retain HB 156, one of two 2017 versions of the legislation. “Retain” means the committee will have to make a recommendation one way or another to the House next January. In short, “retain” is a delay. (Here’s a reminder of what happens without fetal homicide legislation.)

Now the same committee has to decide what to recommend with the other fetal homicide bill, SB 66. The hearing is past. The committee vote has yet to be taken. Today, in a comment on someone’s Facebook post, a member of the Criminal Justice committee made an alarming observation.

“You ca[n]’t believe the number of emails I get from people that are opposed to the pre-born (fetal) homicide bill.”

I am willing to bet that most opposition isn’t coming from people concerned about the point in pregnancy when such a law could be used: 20 weeks in SB 66, 8 weeks in HB 156. Opposition is coming from people who hate the very idea of fetal homicide laws.

Opponents are pushing for an Inexpedient to Legislate vote from the committee. Sounds like they’re generating a serious number of emails.

Perhaps the members of the Criminal Justice committee need some more emails, this time from people saying “YES” to SB 66. This will be good practice for when the bill gets to the House floor, as it will unless the committee goes for another “retain” vote.

Here are the names of committee members. I’ve included party identification and the towns in each district, along with email addresses as listed on the House web site. The committee as a whole can be reached at HouseCriminalJusticeandPublicSafety@leg.state.nh.us. If you see your own rep’s name below, though, send a customized email and identify yourself as a constituent.  Be sure you view the entire table; there are 21 names.

nametowns representedemail address
Beth Rodd (D)Bradford, HennikerBeth.Rodd@leg.state.nh.us
Bonnie Ham (R)Lincoln, Livermore, Waterville Valley, Woodstockbdham@roadrunner.com
Carolyn Gargasz (R)Holliscarolyn.gargasz@leg.state.nh.us
Dave Testerman (R)Franklin wards 1& 2, and Hilldave@sanbornhall.net
David Welch (R)Hampstead, Kingstonv-chcj@outlook.com
Delmar Burridge (D)Keene wards 1-5dburridge@ne.rr.com
Dennis Fields (R)Sanbornton, Tiltondennis.fields@leg.state.nh.us
Dennis Green (R)Hampstead, KingstonDennis.Green@leg.state.nh.us
Frank Sapareto (R)Derrysapareto@comcast.net
Jody McNally (R)Rochester ward 3mcnally_jody_usmc@yahoo.com
John Burt (R)Deering, Goffstown, Wearejohn.burt@leg.state.nh.us
Kate Murray (D)New Castle, RyeKate.Murray@leg.state.nh.us
Larry Gagne (R)Manchester ward 6lgagne25@comcast.net
Laura Pantelakos (D)Portsmouth ward 1lcpantelakos@comcast.net
Linn Opderbecke (D)Dover ward 3no email listed; phone 742-4119
Richard O'Leary (D)Manchester ward 6no email listed; phone 668-0069
Robert "Renny" Cushing (D)Hamptonrenny.cushing@leg.state.nh.us
Robert Fesh (R)Derryrmfesh@comcast.net
Roger Berube (D)Somersworth wards 1, 3, 4, 5, and Rollinsfordrogerrberube@hotmail.com
Scott Wallace (R)Brentwood, Danville, FremontScott.Wallace@leg.state.nh.us
Shannon Chandley (D)AmherstShannon.Chandley.NH@aol.com

 


 

Where’s the roll call on SB 66? (Update: Found!)

Update: a few hours after this post went up, so did the Senate roll calls for SB 66. View them at this link. The first roll call listed is the 8-week amendment that failed on a 12-12 vote. Sens. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) and Dan Innis (R-New Castle) joined the Senate’s ten Democrats in rejecting that language. They did support the 20-week amendment, which passed 14-10. 

The thing about legislative roll calls is that they’re public. They tie elected officials to particular votes. They’re an accountability measure.

During the debate on Senate Bill 66, the fetal homicide measure passed yesterday by the New Hampshire Senate, three roll call votes were taken, according to the official docket for the bill, accessed via the General Court’s web site.

Docket of SB 66 as posted 11:30 a.m., 2/17/2017.

The first roll call (“RC”) was on an amendment; the vote was 12-12; the amendment failed (“AF”). This was the attempt to change the bill’s language to 8 weeks, instead of keeping the original “viability.”

The second roll call was on the amendment to replace “viability” with 20 weeks. This one passed (“AA” or “amendment adopted”) 14-10. The third roll call was to accept the bill as amended, and on another 14-10 vote, the bill passed.

Those RC notations are all hyperlinked to the page that ought to give us the roll calls: each Senator’s name, each Senator’s vote. Instead, we have this.

Record indicating no roll calls on SB 66, as viewed 11:30 a.m. 2/17/2017.

Each day’s roll calls are usually posted online by the end of the day. The recent House right-to-work roll call was online within ten minutes of when the vote occurred.

Personally, I’d like to know the breakdown on that 12-12 vote. I feel safe in saying all ten Democratic senators opposed the bill in all its proposed versions. So who are the two Republicans who couldn’t support the 8-week amendment?

I could just call the Senate clerk or call a Senator. But there’s that thing about roll calls being public. There’s that roll call page on the web site.

I’ll update this when and if the roll calls are posted.

 

Update: N.H. Senate Passes Amended Fetal Homicide Bill

The New Hampshire Senate today passed SB 66 on a 14-10 vote. The measure is a fetal homicide bill that would give prosecutors the option of filing homicide charges against anyone whose bad actions cause the death of a preborn child against the mother’s wishes. As introduced, SB 66 could have been used only for fetal deaths after viability, but the Senate amended the bill today to change “viability” to 20 weeks’ gestation.

The bill’s legislative docket indicates that there was a roll call, but the results had not been linked at the time of this posting.

A New Hampshire House committee last week retained another fetal homicide bill, HB 156, which bars further action on the House version for now. The House bill would have made fetal homicide charges possible for deaths of preborn children at 8 weeks’ gestation or later. It is likely that the Senate bill will now go to the same House committee that retained HB 156.