First vote on Griffin’s Law coming up; sponsor warns of move to “gut it”

The members of New Hampshire House’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee will go on record next Thursday on Griffin’s Law. (More on the bill here and here.)  Chief sponsor Rep. Leon Rideout is concerned about a move to weaken the bill. He has already identified committee member Rep. David Huot of Laconia as someone working to accommodate NARAL’s and NHCLU’s objections to the bill.

From today’s post on Rideout’s Facebook page, written in the hasty style of a man in a hurry:

HB 1503 #Griffinslaw will Have an Executive Session Thursday February 20th where a stooge for a well funded special interest group will attempt to amend the bill and effectively gut the purpose for the bill I still need as many as possible to E mail the criminal justice committee and tell them to forward HB1503 as OTP with out amendment will let you e mail all members of the committee with one e mail. 

Direct Emails made a difference last week on HB 1589 it prevented a Bad Bill from moving forward Lets now see if we can move a Pro Family Bill forward and thwart another big money special Interest Group. Tell all you Representatives to stand with NH Families and not Special Interest Groups.

“OTP” is “ought to pass,” as opposed to “ITL” or “inexpedient to legislate.”

There are five full days between now and the committee vote. That won’t be the end, even if the committee accepts a gutted bill or goes ITL altogether. In the Granite State, every bill gets a floor vote. The full House will likely get the bill the first week in March.

“We’re on a crusade”: the Rideout family leads the charge for Griffin’s Law

Rep. Rideout’s family distributed ribbons at the hearing on HB 1503.

Rep. Leon Rideout was more than a colleague when he spoke yesterday to the New Hampshire House’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee. He spoke as a grandfather whose grandson Griffin died shortly after his premature birth triggered by an auto collision – and who in the eyes of the law was no victim at all. He spoke as father to Ashlyn, who was 7½ months pregnant with Griffin and was herself injured in the collision, caused by another driver ignoring a traffic signal. He spoke for his large extended family, who helped fill the public section of the hearing room.

Rideout is sponsoring HB 1503, a fetal homicide bill that he’s calling Griffin’s Law. It should be a no-brainer. Of course, the last try in 2012 should have been a no-brainer, too. The first efforts around 1990, promoted by the late Rep. Carolyn Brady (R-Manchester), should have gained traction at the time. But they didn’t. Rep. Rideout’s family wanted to make sure that everyone in the room knew why the law is necessary.

He apparently has colleagues who aren’t yet sold on the idea. Rideout took to Facebook today to call on HB 1503 supporters to reach out to Rep. David Huot (D-Laconia).

“Thank You To Everyone That Came to The Hearing and Showed Support. It was a Great showing !! We have a Battle before the Committee Execs #Griffinslaw Rep Huot is going to bring an amendment that basically guts the bill and leaves NH basically where it is today Please E mail / Call Him and tell him not to amend HB 1503 Phone: (603)524-7641

Huot is reportedly attempting to accommodate the concerns of abortion advocates. He might want to read Lamy first.

Rideout made a point of reminding the committee about the Lamy case, in which the state supreme court suggested that the legislature amend the homicide statutes to address what happened in situation’s like Griffin’s. He handed a copy of the case to each committee member.

The “blue sheet,” signed by people who couldn’t attend the hearing but wanted to register an opinion on the bill, had many signatures. Many were from fellow state representatives who had to attend their own committee hearings. Almost all the names on the sheet had “support the bill” checked off.


The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union and NARAL Pro-Choice NH showed up to try to put the brakes on the bill. Devon Chaffee for NHCLU and Laura Thibault of NARAL each made an effort to acknowledge the grief of families like Rep. Rideout’s who lose a child and find that the criminal justice system has nothing to say to the assailants. Then came the Buts and Howevers. “This does not go far enough to safeguard a woman’s rights,” said Chaffee. “This tends to erode women’s rights. While this bill includes an exemption for abortion, if passed it will contribute to the nationwide effort to establish a framework to overturn Roe v. Wade,” added Thibault.

Shirley Kenison-Ward, Griffin's grandmother.
Shirley Kenison-Ward, Griffin’s grandmother. Photo by Rep. Leon Rideout.

The bill explicitly does not apply to ANY fetal death that occurs at the mother’s behest. This means abortion wouldn’t trigger any charge against anyone. Further, thirty-eight states already have fetal homicide laws, according to Rideout, and not one has been overturned. Clear enough? Not to NHCLU and NARAL. They simply can’t abide fetal homicide laws. Chaffee went so far as to say New Hampshire law already covers fetal homicide. The Lamy case puts the lie to that.

It’s fitting that Chaffee and Thibault found their testimony bracketed by Griffin’s grandparents. Rep. Rideout opened the hearing. Later, Shirley Kenison-Ward, “Grammy Shirley,” made sure the committee knew this 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.”

Will the bill be gutted, as Rep. Rideout fears? What language is Rep. Huot proposing? What could possibly allay the fears of abortion advocates while still allowing the criminal prosecution of people who cause a pregnant woman like Ashlyn to lose her son only weeks before she was due to give birth? It is likely to be a few days before the CJPS committee takes a vote. Rep. Leon Rideout will be watching very closely.

Related posts: House committee vote on Griffin’s Law, Senate vote on Griffin’s Law


NH hearing tomorrow on fetal homicide

I wrote yesterday about New Hampshire’s assisted suicide bill and its 1:30 hearing tomorrow, February 4. At the same time, two doors down, the fetal homicide bill – Griffin’s Law, HB 1503 – will have its first public hearing.

Here’s the sponsor’s very personal appeal, about his grandson Griffin: “Why I’m filing Griffin’s Law”

Two years ago, I wrote about the last attempt to pass such a law. The bill at that time was known as Dominick’s Law. How many more children, more names, will it take? This post explains what led the New Hampshire Supreme Court in the 2009 Lamy case to ask the legislature to pass fetal homicide legislation: “Dominick’s Law”

Griffin’s Law is about preborn children who die against the mother’s will through the unwanted actions of another person. When a woman chooses to carry a pregnancy to term, she deserves the same respect as a woman who chooses abortion. So you might be surprised to know that abortion advocates have consistently opposed fetal homicide legislation. Drunk drivers and abusive partners responsible for killing preborn children couldn’t ask for more passionate representation than they’re getting, albeit inadvertently, from opponents of this legislation.