Down for the Count: Life-Issue Bills in N.H. House

The twice-delayed vote on a bill to prevent abortion of viable pre-born children finally came on March 21. HB 1680 was tabled in the New Hampshire House on a 170-163 vote. A committee’s recommendation of “ought to pass” on HB 1680 was never debated. The roll call for the tabling motion is thus what we have to go by, to figure out where state representatives stood on the bill.

A vote in favor of the tabling motion was effectively a vote to kill HB 1680. Tabling meant no debate, aside from the speeches masquerading as “parliamentary inquiries.” An attempt to remove the bill from the table and open it up for debate failed later in the day.

You can look up your reps and how they voted on HB 1680. Keep in mind that a “Yea” vote was a vote in favor of the tabling motion, not a vote in favor of the bill.

On the same day, the Abortion Information Act (HB 1707) was voted to Interim Study.  Translation: it’s dead. Voice vote, no roll call. The bill on coerced abortion (HB 1721) was killed on an Inexpedient to Legislate motion, 237-100.

Three bills, three different motions, same results. Put these on the spike along with conscience protection (Inexpedient to Legislate, 218-109 on March 15) and abortion statistics (ITL, 200-154 on January 3).

This is all spreadsheet material, and I’ll compile it before the filing period in June. That’s when people who want to run for state representative later this year will pay their two bucks to the town clerk to make it official.

Notes on the HB 1680 vote

Opposing the tabling motion were 158 Republicans, joined by two Libertarians (Caleb Dyer and Brandon Phinney) and three Democrats (Roger Berube, Jesse Martineau, and Barbara Shaw).

Joining 148 Democrats in voting to table the bill were one Libertarian (Joseph Stallcop) and 21 Republicans: Francis Chase, Chris Christensen, Karel Crawford, Stephen Darrow, Carolyn Gargasz, John Graham, James Grenier, Bonnie Ham, Peter Hansen, Erin Hennessey, Phyllis Katsakiores, John Lewicke, Betsy McKinney, Russell Ober, Mark Proulx, Andrew Prout, Skip Rollins, Frank Sapareto, Franklin Sterling, Robert Theberge, and Brenda Willis.

Speaker Gene Chandler was present during the day but was absent for the HB 1680 vote, turning the gavel over to Deputy Speaker Sherman Packard.

Absences: there were 38 “excused” absences, according to the House roll call, and 20 “Not Voting.”  The latter indicates an unexcused absence. It could mean a rep simply took a walk rather than go on record. Those 58 missing reps loom large in the context of a 170-163 vote.

N.H. House Votes Approaching

Update: a heavy House agenda and a session-shortening snowstorm have moved the votes on these bills to Wednesday, March 21, 2018. This will be the second delay for the vote. The deadline for the House to act on the bill is close of the business day on March 22.

Tuesday, March 6, begins what might be a three-day session for the New Hampshire House. The representatives have an agenda that’s about 150 pages long. And yes, there’s a snowstorm in the forecast, as if the schedule weren’t already dicey enough.

Among the bills to be voted on are HB 1680, the Viable Fetus Protection Act; HB 1787, conscience rights for medical professionals; HB 1707, abortion information/informed consent; HB 1721, a ban on coerced abortions.

No, it’s not too late to email your reps. Many of them have smartphones that they use to to check email and text messages during the House session.

Today’s civics lesson: Find your state representatives’ email address via this link on the General Court (legislature) web site. There are phone numbers for each rep as well; some are cell numbers and some are landlines. If you recognize a cell number, use it for a text message Tuesday morning, March 6. Don’t call at unsocial hours (some people have to be reminded of that).

Send a separate message for each bill. In an email, pack the basic message into the subject line in case that’s all the rep has time to read. When writing to your own district’s reps, be sure to mention your town. A subject line might be “Yes on HB 1680, from a [town name] resident.” Keep the message short and courteous (again, some people need to be reminded; present company excepted, I’m sure).

I’ll be monitoring the House session online, and you can, too, if you’re so inclined. Look for the Streaming Media link on the General Court web site.

Subcommittee Named to Review Abortion Statistics Bill

Five representatives from the New Hampshire House Health and Human Services committee have been named to a subcommittee studying HB 471, the abortion statistics bill that was retained in committee earlier this year.

New Hampshire is one of only three states that do not collect public health information regarding abortion.

HHS committee chairman Rep. Frank Kotowski named Rep. Bill Nelson (R-Brookfield) to chair the subcommittee. Other members are Reps. Lucy Weber (D-Walpole), Jerry Knirk (D-Freedom), John Fothergill (R-Colebrook), and Jess Edwards (R-Auburn). The subcommittee must report back to the full committee by November 1. The full House will take up the committee recommendation in January 2018.

Subcommittee work sessions have not yet been scheduled. The sessions will be open to the public.

Rep. Nelson chaired the study group whose work resulted in the last abortion statistics bill, HB 629, which passed the House in 2016 but was tabled in the Senate after an “ought to pass” motion failed on a 12-12 vote. (Story about 2016 bill here.)

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.

 

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.