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.