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Republicans Force Through Substantive Changes To “Fetal Homicide” Bill

Legislators and Civil Rights Group Call on Governor Sununu to Veto the Bill.

Yesterday morning the New Hampshire House and Senate voted to adopt an Enrolled Bills Committee Amendment to SB 66 – a fetal personhood measure recognizing a fetus as an independent victim of a crime for the first time in New Hampshire law. The amended bill now makes its way to Governor Chris Sununu’s desk.

During yesterday’s floor debate, House Speaker Shawn Jasper confirmed the enrolled bill amendment was put forth because SB 66, as passed by both chambers, would have allowed pregnant women to commit murder with impunity. Enrolled bill amendments are rarely voted on by the full House and Senate because they are normally restricted to typographical or technical errors.

Yesterday, the House and Senate voted to adopt a substantive enrolled bill amendment significantly changing the structure of the exceptions to SB 66’s expansion of New Hampshire’s homicide laws.

“This bill, which makes major changes to New Hampshire’s homicide laws, deserved a full vetting by the legislature.  It is our duty to write the state’s laws through an open, transparent process, and making substantive changes to our state’s murder laws in the way that we did today is a disservice to New Hampshire,” said Representative Renny Cushing (D-Hampton).  “What the House did today was legislative malpractice, and I am concerned about the long term implications this will have on our democracy.”

“We urge Governor Sununu to veto this legislation,” said Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Hampshire. “The fact that this last minute amendment was needed to avoid some of SB 66’s outrageous unintended consequences demonstrates that the bill was not fully vetted. The amendment adopted today is also extremely confusing, jeopardizing critical exemptions intended to protect pregnant women and their physicians from unjust murder and other homicide charges.”

Additional unintended consequences of SB 66 not addressed in the enrolled bills amendment includes the bill’s medically inaccurate definition of a fetus, which would be the only definition of a fetus in New Hampshire law. Judges could reasonably look to this medically inaccurate definition when interpreting the term “fetus” as it appears in other statutes including: the assault statute; the vital records statute; or the statute governing organ donation.

“This Republican bill has been plagued with issues from the outset. If as much effort was invested into writing the bill as was invested into eroding women’s reproductive rights, perhaps our Republican colleagues wouldn’t need to break Senate procedure to fix their mistakes,” said Senator Donna Soucy (D-Manchester), Deputy Democratic Leader in the Senate.

“Not only were medical experts never consulted during the construction of this bill, but Republicans were so careless as to include language that provides immunity for pregnant women in homicide cases. Now, they’re scrambling after-the-fact to use a legislative process normally used to correct spelling errors to make major policy changes about women’s reproductive health. And to demonstrate how desperate Republicans are, when a Senate colleague stepped forward in standard Senate procedure to voice her opposition to this process, she was interrupted and shut down by her Republican colleagues. This legislation is an exercise in poor craftsmanship on top of bad policy, and I’m concerned with the precedent this creates,” added Soucy.

“It is extraordinarily disheartening to me that the body would choose to make substantive changes to the entire homicide statute at a point in the process designed to ‘correct any error or omission in the references to statutes, or other technical or clerical errors.’  Today’s actions set an extremely disturbing precedent,” stated Representative Shannon Chandley (D-Amherst).

Senate Bill 66 establishes a basis for discrimination against pregnant women by codifying a medically unsound definition of a fetus as a separate person capable of being a victim of a crime. While the law is said to be an attempt to win justice for parents who lose a child during pregnancy due to criminal action, laws like SB 66 are used in other states to punish pregnant women for “risky” behaviors that are not criminal for others and has created legal argument to attack women’s reproductive health services.

Existing New Hampshire law currently provides for severe enhanced penalties for violent crimes resulting in the loss of pregnancy, without the outrageous unintended consequences that exist within SB 66. Under that existing New Hampshire law, a person may be prosecuted for First Degree Assault if they purposely or knowingly cause injury to another resulting in miscarriage or stillbirth—a class A Felony carrying a sentence of up to 15 years.

NH House Committee Pushes ‘Fetal Personhood’ Bill To The House Floor

In an unprecedented move,
House Criminal Justice Committee reopens a retained bill

CONCORD – In an unprecedented move, the NH House Criminal Justice Committee passed SB 66  out of committee by a vote of 12-8. The House Committee previously retained the bill by a margin of 21-1. SB 66, if passed, would recognize a fetus as an independent victim of a crime for the first time in New Hampshire law.

SB 66 is a bill that poses serious unintended consequences and threatens women’s rights and health. The bill, as reported out by the House Criminal Justice Committee, would recognize a fetus as an independent victim of a crime. In doing so, SB 66 pits the rights of women against the rights of a fetus – threatening to erode the reproductive rights of Granite State women and to advance a larger national agenda to undermine the Roe v. Wade decision protecting abortion access.

”In other states that have adopted personhood measures like SB 66, pregnant women have been subjected to surveillance, arrest, incarceration, and unwanted medical treatment,” says Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the ACLU-NH. “SB 66 is inconsistent with existing New Hampshire statutes, and pits women’s rights against fetal rights in a manner that threatens to undermine pregnant women’s status as full persons under the law.”

As amended by the Senate, SB 66 uses medically inaccurate terminology. The Senate amendment to SB 66 removed the term “viability” from the bill and included a definition of “fetus” that is inconsistent with how that term is understood by the medical community.  Additionally, the Senate amendment’s use of a twenty-week marker has no grounding in medicine or law.

Current New Hampshire law recognizes the severe harm resulting from the death of a fetus and provides for an enhanced felony conviction in such cases. A person may be prosecuted for First Degree Assault if that person purposely or knowingly causes injury to another resulting in miscarriage or stillbirth—a class A Felony carrying a sentence of up to 15 years. People who commit violent crimes against pregnant women, especially crimes which result in miscarriage or stillbirth, should be punished and that punishment should recognize the severity of the harm and loss to women and their families. Representative Laura Pantelakos has submitted an amendment to SB 66 that would replace the bill with language that adds enhanced penalties to New Hampshire’s homicide statute. As such, Representative Pantelakos’ amendment would appropriately focus the law on the additional, often devastating injury suffered when a crime against a woman results in the loss of her pregnancy.

Leaders across New Hampshire are speaking out against SB 66 as passed by the Senate and as reported out of the House Criminal Justice Committee. Dalia Vidunas, Executive Director of the Equality Health, wrote in the Concord monitor: “SB 66 would become the first New Hampshire law to recognize a fetus as an independent victim of a crime. Such measures have been passed in other states to create a tension between women’s rights and fetal rights and provide a framework to overturn Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman’s right to choose.” Read the rest of Vidunas’ letter here.

Reverend Mary Westfall, Community Church of Durham, United Church of Christ wrote in the Portsmouth Herald: “We all agree that those who commit violent acts against pregnant women should be severely punished under the law. SB 66 is not the answer. Instead of providing recourse for tragic fetal loss, this bill is a slippery slope to eroding rights under Roe v. Wade. If the New Hampshire legislature wants to increase penalties for crimes against pregnant women it should do so without threatening women’s rights and in a manner consistent with existing law.” Read the rest of Westfall’s letter here.

Susan Arnold, Chair for the NH Reproductive Rights Advisory Council, wrote in Foster’s Daily Democrat: “SB 66, if passed, would recognize a fetus as an independent victim of a crime for the first time in New Hampshire law…In other states that have adopted personhood measures like SB 66, pregnant women have been subjected to surveillance, arrest, incarceration, and other deprivations of liberty for otherwise legal behavior that may or may not have harmed their fetuses. Justice for women? I think not. Read the rest of Arnold’s letter here.

Fetal Personhood: An Injustice for Granite State Women

Concerned Leaders Across New Hampshire Speak Out in Opposition to SB 66

CONCORD – The New Hampshire House is currently considering SB 66, a bill that threatens women’s rights and health. SB 66, if passed, would recognize a fetus as an independent victim of a crime for the first time under New Hampshire law. In doing so, SB 66 pits the rights of women against the rights of a fetus.

SB 66 threatens to erode the reproductive rights of women in New Hampshire and advance a larger national agenda to ban abortion.

”In other states that have adopted personhood measures like SB 66, pregnant women have been subjected to surveillance, arrest, incarceration, and other deprivations of liberty for otherwise legal behavior that may or may not have harmed their fetuses,” says Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the ACLU-NH. “SB 66 includes medically inaccurate terminology and a very limited “exception” that puts women and doctors at risk for prosecution—women for their behavior during pregnancy, and doctors for providing responsible, consensual medical care.”

Current New Hampshire law recognizes the severe harm resulting from the death of a fetus and provides for an enhanced felony conviction in such cases. A person may be prosecuted for First Degree Assault if that person purposely or knowingly causes injury to another resulting in miscarriage or stillbirth—a class A Felony carrying a sentence of up to 15 years. People who commit violent crimes against pregnant women, especially crimes which result in miscarriage or stillbirth, should be punished and that punishment should recognize the severity of the harm and loss to women and their families. SB 66 goes far beyond ensuring the punishment meets the crime.

Leaders across New Hampshire are speaking out against this dangerous measure. Dalia Vidunas, Executive Director of the Equality Health, wrote in the Concord monitor: “SB 66 would become the first New Hampshire law to recognize a fetus as an independent victim of a crime. Such measures have been passed in other states to create a tension between women’s rights and fetal rights and provide a framework to overturn Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman’s right to choose.” Read the rest of Vidunas’ letter here.

Reverend Mary Westfall, Community Church of Durham, United Church of Christ wrote in the Portsmouth Herald: “We all agree that those who commit violent acts against pregnant women should be severely punished under the law. SB 66 is not the answer. Instead of providing recourse for tragic fetal loss, this bill is a slippery slope to eroding rights under Roe v. Wade. If the New Hampshire legislature wants to increase penalties for crimes against pregnant women it should do so without threatening women’s rights and in a manner consistent with existing law.” Read the rest of Westfall’s letter here.

Susan Arnold, Chair for the NH Reproductive Rights Advisory Council, wrote in Foster’s Daily Democrat: “SB 66, if passed, would recognize a fetus as an independent victim of a crime for the first time in New Hampshire law…In other states that have adopted personhood measures like SB 66, pregnant women have been subjected to surveillance, arrest, incarceration, and other deprivations of liberty for otherwise legal behavior that may or may not have harmed their fetuses. Justice for women? I think not. Read the rest of Arnold’s letter here.

ACLU of NH Files Demands for Documents on Implementation of Trump’s Immigration Ban

FOIA Filed As Part of Coordinated Campaign With 49 ACLU Affiliates

CONCORD— The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire filed a Freedom of Information Act request today with its local U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in Boston to learn how Trump administration officials are interpreting and executing the president’s immigration ban, and whether they are acting in violation of federal courts that ordered a stay on the ban’s implementation. The filing today is part of a coordinated effort from 49 ACLU affiliates, which filed 18 FOIAs with CBP field offices and its headquarters spanning 55 international airports across the country. 

“The President’s Executive Order is a major step toward carrying out his campaign threat to ban the admission of Muslims into the United States,” states Devon Chaffee, the ACLU-NH’s Executive Director.  “This Order has already taken a terrible human toll and it should not be allowed to continue.  It separates American families and deprives our country of the contributions that these newcomers, and their children and grandchildren, will make as Americans.” 

Media reports indicate that CBP officials detained and deported individuals, even after federal courts ordered officials to stop enforcing the executive order following a court challenge from the ACLU and other organizations.

“It is imperative that the public learn if federal immigration officials are blatantly defying nationwide federal court orders that block President Trump’s unconstitutional immigration ban,” said Mitra Ebadolahi, Border Litigation Project Staff Attorney with the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. “To shed light on this critical issue of pressing public concern, 49 ACLU affiliates are using the Freedom of Information Act to expose Customs and Border Protection’s abuse of power.” 

The Trump administration has yet to inform the public of how many refugees, visa holders, and legal permanent residents have been affected by this action. 

The FOIA request was joined by the ACLUs of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The request can be found here: https://www.aclumaine.org/sites/default/files/cbp_foia_new_england.pdf

cbp_foia_new_england
 

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