Dominick’s Law: Hearing Thursday in Concord

“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.”

That’s the New Hampshire Supreme Court talking. The legislature might be listening. We’ll find out as HB 217 makes its way to the state senate’s Judiciary committee this week.  

“This case” is  State of New Hampshire v. Joshua Lamy, decided in 2009.  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. She named the baby 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. . He refused to legislate from the bench. At the same time, as Duggan wrote in the line I quoted at the beginning of this post, the justices all recognized that existing law was inadequate.

HB 217 is a fetal homicide bill. As Justice Duggan pointed out, this concept hardly breaks new ground. It passed the House, albeit in what the original sponsor, Rep. Kathy Souza (R-Manchester), calls a “gutted” version. (Why was leadership moved to amend the original bill? Is the House Reproductive Rights Coalition that influential?)

Someone’s vote had to depend on the amendment, which changed the original bill that covered all preborn children to one that covers preborn children “24 weeks of gestation or more.” The amended bill commanded a fair majority in the House (213-125).

The committee hearing in the House brought forth people who call themselves “pro-choice”,  expressing concern that Roe v. Wade might be weakened by a fetal homicide law.  They evidently do not respect the choice made by Brianna Emmons to carry her child

Thirty states have some form of a fetal homicide law, and the last time I checked, Roe was very much in force. A fetal homicide law cannot stop a single abortion, for the simple reason that it applies only to pregnancies a mother has chosen to carry.

Drunk drivers & abusive partners can inflict pregnancy-ending injuries with literal impunity at any point in pregnancy until and unless New Hampshire passes a bill like the original version of HB 217. Think of it as Dominick’s law.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is scheduled for Thursday,  April 26, at 2:30 in room 101 of the Legislative Office Building.

Introduction: “Still Talking About This”

“I can’t believe we’re still talking about this.”
I must have heard those words fifty times in the past year in Concord, spoken by fellow citizens who style themselves “pro-choice” and are truly surprised that pro-lifers are still active.

Still talking about what? About abortion, how it became legal, and how it has grown into a lucrative business for abortion providers; about women facing challenging pregnancies and sometimes facing the aftermath of terminating those pregnancies; about paying for it and subsidizing the industry.  We’re still talking because there is no way to shut down a debate when lives are at stake.

To the great dismay of abortion advocates, New Hampshire legislators in the past year have taken up a number of bills that touch on abortion.  Every session has some abortion debate, but 2011-12 has been remarkable for the sheer volume of life-issue legislation. Most of the bills are consistent with U.S. Supreme Court decisions that are based on Roe. With the exception of two measures to ban late-term abortion and “partial-birth” infanticide, the bills provide mere regulation, long-overdue and badly needed. One bill is simply an attempt to get the state to order abortion providers to report statistics.

New Hampshire currently is the Wild West where abortion law is concerned. Women’s safety and public health policy would seem to call for a degree of regulation and oversight, even if one were to put aside the fact that each abortion takes a human life. Abortion advocates are  loud and angry over each and every one of the bills, however, drawing no distinction among parental notification (enacted over a veto), funding restrictions, statistical reporting, and a late-term ban. To them, it’s all one big attack on Choice, part of a larger effort to set women back.

This is worse than nonsense. What I see being set back are the rights of women and men who choose not to pay even indirectly for the operation of an abortion facility.  I see people lobbying to keep abortion undocumented, so that public health officials will continue to be in the dark about how many New Hampshire women make this “choice” every year. I hear testimony to the need for eugenic abortion, which is a throwback to one of the 20th century’s worst ideas. I hear women who should know better equate a 24-hour waiting period with an outright ban on abortion.

Both in New Hampshire and elsewhere, we need to meet this with more than hand-wringing and the occasional letter to the editor. I offer this blog as a tool and a guide to action for all who share my determination to bring an end to the carnage wrought by Roe. I will undoubtedly use the blog sometimes just to vent. At all times, though, I am mindful that if I do this right, I’ll be reaching people who disagree with me. Persuasion is always possible. Of course, I have no doubt that someone over on the other side is working to persuade me right back. Fair enough.

I write as a woman who came of age in the years shortly after Roe v. Wade. When I was in high school and a dear friend “had” to have an abortion, I chipped in with some friends for the $250 cost. I found the idea of abortion regrettable & uncomfortable, but it was after all my friend’s body & my friend’s choice. Over the following five years, many experiences combined to leave me incapable of denying the humanity of the child in uteroThe dignity of both mother and child are absolute, regardless of what any court may decide.

Just as the state rep who heads the Reproductive Rights Caucus is careful to mention that she’s Catholic, I should be candid about my religious background. While raised Catholic, I spent most of my adolescence shrugging off religion. Later, it wasn’t being Catholic that made me pro-life. It was recognizing the miracle of life that brought me back to professing the Catholic faith. This has been significant in more ways than I could have imagined when I was a young woman.

As for politics, I call myself a recovering Republican. I fall off the wagon now and then, but I am a registered “undeclared” voter, in New Hampshire parlance. The rest of the world knows me as “independent.” It is true that nearly every candidate I support runs as a Republican. It is also true that GOP leaders tend to take pro-life voters for granted. By not signing up with the party, I can help whatever candidates I choose, and the party need not get annoyed with me for failing to back every candidate on the ticket.

So yes, we’re still talking about this. Pro-lifers cannot be effective if they stay huddled together. I propose that we step out in faith and leaven the loaf of public discourse. Let’s begin.