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.

 

A Team Effort: St. Gianna’s Place

“A Safe Harbor for Mother and Child.” Step by step, St. Gianna’s Place is on the way to becoming a shelter for pregnant and parenting women. Administrative details are in place: a board of directors; nonprofit tax status. Now comes the work of acquiring a house, most likely in Londonderry, New Hampshire.

St. Gianna’s is taking shape one step at a time, guided by board members and an increasing number of supporters. One of those supporters, Lynn, hosted me and several other women for coffee recently so we could meet Maria Szemplinski of the St. Gianna’s Place board.

Maria talked about the planned home and about the people whose vision has brought the project this far.  She told us about the need for more shelter beds in our area: “our Calcutta is right here,” she said, evoking Mother Teresa. She talked about other shelters in the region and how their staffs have been generous in sharing their advice and experience with the St. Gianna’s team.

So what’s next? We asked Maria what we could do.

One obvious answer: fundraising. That wasn’t what Maria led with, though. She asked us to consider what our gifts might be.

I knew some of my fellow guests slightly, and had met others for the first time that morning: a student active in pro-life work at her school, people with experience working with at-risk youth, an adoptive parent. These were women with full lives, hardly in need of another project, but all of them eager to offer practical assistance to pregnant and parenting women. I was in a room full of potential mentors and teachers.

Our hostess was meeting one of St. Gianna’s most urgent needs by welcoming us for an information session. Spreading the word is critical to attracting the material support the project needs. Maria and her fellow board members welcome opportunities to speak with any person or group who’d like to learn more.

Maria made it clear that even at this stage, the St. Gianna’s board is on the lookout for people with the skills to work with women who want educational guidance, job training, and parenting skills.

Eventually, it will be time to furnish and equip the house that will serve as the shelter. There will be ongoing needs for food, baby supplies, and building maintenance.

There will be – there is – work for everyone who wants to make the shelter happen and help it thrive.

Learn more about St. Gianna’s Place, about the woman whose life and example inspired the project, and how to contact the St. Gianna’s Place team for more information. Watch the St. Gianna’s Place Facebook page for updates. 


 

Update: Those “Common Sense” Initiatives Sununu Supported

Governor Chris Sununu (nh.gov photo)

Six months ago, just before the last statewide election in New Hampshire, a concerned pro-life Republican elicited a letter from Chris Sununu listing some pro-life initiatives Sununu would back if he were elected governor.

Number of those initiatives that Governor Sununu has had a chance to sign: zero.

Fetal Homicide Bill: House and Senate versions have been “retained” in the House Criminal Justice Committee. No word yet on any subcommittee being assigned to look at these bills.

Women’s Health Protection Act: However that may be defined – whether informed consent, or making abortion facilities meet the same standards as ambulatory care facilities, or letting a woman know in advance the name and qualifications of the person about to perform her abortion – no such legislation came forward in the 2017 New Hampshire legislative session.

Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act: No legislation offered.

Late-Term Abortion Ban: Failed. A motion of “ought to pass with amendment” on HB 578 failed in the House on a 170-189 vote. The bill was then tabled on a voice vote.  A few representatives indicated that they voted ITL because the bill didn’t go far enough. That was not the prevailing view.

Buffer Zone Repeal: Failed. HB 579 was voted “inexpedient to legislate” on a 191-165 House vote, the First Amendment notwithstanding. Note, however, that no abortion facility has yet posted a zone. No thanks to the legislature for that.

From candidate-now-Governor Sununu’s letter: “I know that my winning the race for Governor will be our best chance to get this important work done.”

By the way, there are Republican majorities in the New Hampshire House and Senate this year. Do not confuse “Republican” with “pro-life.”

The Governor’s term still has a year and a half to run. He may get something relevant on his desk next year from House and Senate.  It remains to be seen if he’ll sit back and wait, or if he’ll work to build support for the measures he said he’d sign.