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“Handmaid’s” Watch In Disgust As House Passes SB66, A Fetal Personhood Bill

Image by David Meuse

In an unprecedented assault on women’s reproductive rights, the NH House passed SB66, a ‘fetal personhood’ bill. The fetal personhood measure recognizes a fetus as an independent victim of a crime for the first time under New Hampshire law.

Looking over the House floor was a group of “Handmaids” dressed in full red robes and wings, made popular by the breakout hit “A Handmaid’s Tale.”  In the show, women have become subservient to men in every way.  Handmaids, being the only women left who can possibly bear children, the Handmaids are given to high power families and forced into conceiving a child for their captors. If they do conceive a child with their “Commanders”, the high powered man of their house, the child becomes his and the handmaid is relegated to the position of wet nurse and nanny.

The handmaids have no rights to their own bodies which makes them the perfect symbol for the assault on women’s reproductive rights currently being pushed through our state legislature.

The proponents of the bill say the legislation will create stiffer penalties to those who attack a pregnant woman, causing harm to the fetus.   However, this legislation creates many problems. SB 66, as amended by the majority of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, is inconsistent with existing New Hampshire law and risks serious unintended consequences. The bill, which also includes a definition of a fetus, has no medical or legal grounding.

“By recognizing a fetus as an independent victim of a crime for the first time under New Hampshire law, SB 66 threatens to pit the rights of a fetus against the rights of a pregnant woman,” said Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Hampshire.

As the NH ACLU explained: “Existing New Hampshire law currently provides for severe enhanced penalties for violent crimes that result in the loss of pregnancy, without putting women’s rights at risk. Under existing New Hampshire law, 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.”

This is a heavy-handed attempt to eventually make abortion a crime.  “In states that have adopted fetal personhood measures like SB 66 as amended by the Committee, women have been targeted with arrest, prosecution and other deprivations of their liberty for their behavior during pregnancy,” added the NH ACLU.

Governor Sununu told the Union Leader of his intention to sign the bill.

“The fetal homicide bill is about justice for women,” Sununu stated.  He went on to say, that SB 66 “Has nothing to do with being pro-choice or pro-life,” despite actions by Republicans in the House who tried to repeal the 20 week provision in the law to say that “life begins at conception.”

Provisions like SB 66 add to a growing nationwide effort intended to create tension in the law between fetal rights and women’s rights. While SB 66 includes an exemption for abortion, opponents of abortion rights support such provisions as a legal foundation for overturning Roe v. Wade and its critical protections.

Action Together New Hampshire who organized the Handmaids for the session releases the following:

Action Together New Hampshire is disappointed but not surprised by the outcome of the House of Representatives votes on SB 3 and SB 66. We were surprised by several members of the House of Representatives and their behavior towards members exercising their right to protest peacefully. Voters in New Hampshire deserve leaders, not adults who behave like high school bullies.

If women are no longer able to control their own reproductive rights, what will the Republicans do next? Will they say that women cannot own property or control their own money or force them into slavery based “religious teachings” and scripture as the do in “The Handmaid’s Tale”?

This bill is a step in the wrong direction taking us one step closer to making a “Handmaid’s Tale” reality.

Image by Paul Brochu

New Hampshire Legislature Becomes 34th State to Allow Electronic Poll Books

Trial Poll Book Devices are Step toward Modernizing, Securing, and Streamlining Elections 

CONCORD – New Hampshire voting rights advocates praise the passage of electronic poll books, which will modernize, secure and streamline elections in the state. The New Hampshire Legislature passed Senate Bill 113 today with strong bipartisan support.

SB 113 will authorize a trial of electronic poll book devices for voter registration and check-in at future municipal and statewide elections and was part of a modernization package that ACLU, America Votes, League of Women Voters NH, and Open Democracy advocated for to relieve congested polling locations and help towns and cities’ Election Day burden.

Having a closed, electronic database available on election day makes it easier for officials to maintain accurate lists of eligible voters and make sure that only eligible American citizens are able to participate in our elections.

“I’m thrilled that the legislature has taken this pragmatic step forward in modernizing our election process,” said bill sponsor and longtime champion Senator Bette Lasky, Nashua. “New Hampshire prides itself on a tradition of strong citizen participation in elections. But we also know that high voter turnout can create long lines at the polls. We must do everything we can to ensure that voting is accessible and efficient for everyone.”

“This pilot is a commonsense solution that gives communities the opportunity to test the system and help election workers process voters more quickly and ensure that busy Granite Staters have every opportunity to participate,” said Olivia Zink, Open Democracy Executive Director. “The program also provides enhanced features that will ensure less errors on the voter rolls and increased efficiency that helps free up more local resources post-election.”

All towns and cities participating in the trial program must have adequate back-up systems and cover all costs associated with electronic poll books. The programs covered in SB 113 must also meet certification standards established by the Secretary of State.

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