Fetal Homicide (HB 156, 2017)

Cornerstone has actively supported fetal homicide legislation in the past, seeing it as an appropriate way to recognize the loss of life sustained by women whose wanted preborn children are killed by the bad action of a third party. This session, we ask you to recommend Ought to Pass on HB 156.

This legislation would allow prosecution of a person, such as an impaired driver or abusive domestic partner, whose actions cause a woman to lose a pregnancy that she has chosen to carry. This bill provides prosecutors with an option, not a mandate.

Please take note that HB 156 would not apply in any case of fetal death caused with the consent of the pregnant woman. This bill would not impair any right to abortion. It reflects respect for the right of a woman to choose to carry a child to term. Rest assured that abortion is still legal in the 38 states that have fetal homicide laws on the books.

HB 156 responds to a concern expressed eight years ago by the New Hampshire Supreme Court in the Lamy case. In 2006, a drunk driver traveling at over 100 miles per hour on the streets of Manchester hit a taxi, killing one adult and injuring two others. One of the injured victims was 7 months pregnant, and her baby was delivered by cesarean section shortly after the collision. The baby, a boy named Dominick, died two weeks later. The medical examiner determined that he died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the collision. Three years later, on appeal, the state Supreme Court overturned the driver’s conviction for causing the child’s death. Justice Duggan, writing for a unanimous court, said, “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.”

As you are aware, your counterparts in the Senate are considering a similar bill. We commend the Senate sponsors’ intentions, even as we tell you that the House language is far preferable.

In recent years, families have come forward to testify to House and Senate committees about the need for New Hampshire to catch up to the rest of the nation on fetal homicide legislation. We add our voices to theirs. Please send HB 156 to your House colleagues with an Ought to Pass recommendation. Thank you.