CONCORD – Today, the New Hampshire House passed SB 66 – a fetal personhood measure that recognizes a fetus as an independent victim of a crime for the first time under New Hampshire law. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee previously retained the bill by a margin of 21-1. Last week the Committee reconsidered its vote and passed the bill out of Committee 12-8.
The ending of a wanted pregnancy is a deep and devastating loss, and those who commit violent crimes against pregnant women can and should be punished. But 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.
“We urge Governor Sununu to veto this legislation,” said Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Hampshire. “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.”
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.
SB 66, on the other hand, goes far beyond ensuring the punishment meets the 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.
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.