April 28, 2014 — The New Hampshire Senate last week rejected legislation (HB 1503) that would have allowed criminal charges for killing a fetus during a criminal act against a pregnant woman, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The chamber then tabled the bill, effectively ending its chances for this year, according to the AP/San Francisco Chronicle (Love, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 4/24).
New Hampshire is among a dozen states that do not have laws that allow homicide charges specifically for the death of a fetus. Under current state law, a person who recklessly or negligently causes a miscarriage or stillbirth can be charged with aggravated assault against the woman, but not murder or manslaughter for the death of the fetus (Ronayne, Concord Monitor, 4/25). If convicted, assailants can be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 4/24).
The bill, proposed by state Rep. Leon Rideout (R), would have allowed homicide and manslaughter charges against anyone involved in the death of a fetus after eight weeks of pregnancy. The bill would have explicitly excluded abortion from being considered a crime.
Earlier in the legislative session, the state House stripped the provisions allowing the new charges and added language allowing judges to impose more stringent sentences in assault cases that cause fetal death. However, the bill was later changed back to the original version in the state Senate Judiciary Committee (Concord Monitor, 4/25).
After the full chamber's 13-10 vote to reject the bill, state Senate Republican Leader Jeb Bradley offered an amendment that would have granted a fetus legal standing after viability, but the amended measure failed in a 12-11 vote.
Rideout insisted the bill did not deal with abortion, but state Sen. Nancy Stiles (R) said the measure could be used to charge physicians who perform emergency abortions if they fail to get a woman's consent before performing the procedure (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 4/24). Stiles added that the "legislation needs a lot more work" (Concord Monitor, 4/25). NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire said the bill would have laid the foundation for granting "personhood" to fetuses and restricting abortion rights (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 4/24).