N.H. House Approves Fetal Homicide Bill

January 9, 2012 — The New Hampshire House last week approved legislation (HB 217) by a 213-125 vote that would allow authorities to criminally charge a person who causes the violent death of a fetus, the New Hampshire Union Leader reports.

The bill includes amendments that would restrict criminal charges to deaths of fetuses at more than 24 weeks gestation and would require the perpetrator to knowingly or purposely cause the death of a fetus.

House Speaker William O'Brien (R) said the law "could serve as deterrence for those wishing to do harm to a pregnant woman or her baby."

While Rep. Kathleen Souza (R), the bill's primary sponsor, has said that the bill is not about banning abortion, others disagree. Rep. Stephen Shurtleff (D) criticized the legislation because it would change the definition of personhood under state common law. He also said the state already has a law that addresses fetal victims of crimes (Rayno, New Hampshire Union Leader, 1/4).