N.H. Gov. Lynch Vetoes Bill Allowing Homicide Charges for Death of Fetus

June 21, 2012 — New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch (D) on Monday vetoed a bill (HB 217) that would have expanded that state's homicide law to apply to fetal deaths after eight weeks of gestation, the AP/Boston Globe reports.

Under the legislation, an individual could be charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder or negligent homicide for causing the death of a fetus.

In his veto message, Lynch noted that medical experts believe there is a one-in-four chance that a pregnancy will end in miscarriage by eight weeks. "That is why I believe that any criminal liability for the death of the fetus should be based upon 'viability' which is not rigidly tied to a certain number of weeks," he said. He said he would be open to similar legislation that included such a standard.

Lynch said the bill would have unreasonably restricted a woman's rights during pregnancy and could have hindered access to fertility treatments. He added that the bill does not specify whether a physician could face a murder prosecution for performing emergency treatment on a woman who arrives at the emergency room unconscious, especially if there is no legally appointed guardian available.

The Legislature is expected to meet next week to discuss the governor's vetoed bills (AP/Boston Globe, 6/19).