Fetal Homicide Bill Falls Short of Override; Sure to Return in Future Session

June 27, 2012

For the first time, after attempts going back nearly twenty years, a New Hampshire fetal homicide bill made it to the governor’s desk this session. The House’s failure to agree with the Senate to override Governor Lynch’s veto of HB 217 is unfortunate. This year’s progress is enormously encouraging, however, and we are confident that a fetal homicide bill will pass in a future session, finally bringing New Hampshire law up to date. In 2009, the New Hampshire Supreme Court in the Lamy case highlighted the gap in state law regarding fetal homicide, and pointed the way to fixing the problem.

This is not an academic issue. In the case that gave rise to the Lamy decision, a drunk driver was convicted of multiple offenses for the death and destruction he caused. His conviction for causing the death of a fetus at seven months’ gestation was overturned, though, in spite of the fact that the fetus was born alive and died two weeks later from trauma sustained in the collision. Current New Hampshire law sees no crime there. That gap needs to be closed.

Legislators led by prime sponsor Rep. Kathleen Souza (R-Manchester) were very responsive to concerns raised during hearings on the bill and agreed to amendments during the legislative process. The final version made clear that no action taken with the consent of a pregnant woman could be considered a crime under HB 217. We expect any future version of a fetal homicide law will include that important provision.