CONCORD – On Thursday, January 19TH at 10am, the Criminal Justice Committee of the New Hampshire House of Representatives will hold a hearing on HB 156 – a bill that is unnecessary and inconsistent with current law, and if passed, will pose considerable consequences threatening the health and privacy of women in the Granite State.
If passed, HB 156 would recognize a fetus as a legal entity separate from a woman. By recognizing a fetus as a person who can be an independent victim of a crime, HB 156 creates a legal basis for depriving a pregnant woman of her status as a full person under the law. New Hampshire has rejected proposals similar to HB 156 over a dozen times the past two decades.
“The ending of a wanted pregnancy is a deep and devastating loss, and our laws must punish people who commit violent crimes against pregnant women,” states Susan Arnold, Chair of the New Hampshire Reproductive Rights Advisory Council. “New Hampshire law already punishes those who commit violent crimes against pregnant women. In 1990, the New Hampshire legislature adopted a law that provides enhanced felony punishment for assaults that result in loss of pregnancy.” A person who “purposely or knowingly causes injury to another resulting in miscarriage or stillbirth” currently faces up to 15 years in prison.
“Personhood” measures, like HB 156, subject a pregnant woman to involuntary medical treatment, surveillance, and incarceration. In states that have adopted laws like HB 156 purport to exempt women from criminal liability – a pregnant woman is still more likely to be punished for “risky” behaviors that is not criminalized for others, and that may or may not have caused harm to her fetus.
And while the bill includes an exemption for abortion, HB 156 will inevitably contribute to a nationwide effort to establish a framework for overturning Roe v. Wade. By establishing a contradiction in the law and pitting a woman against her fetus, HB 156 threatens to erode a woman’s constitutional right to make her own private medical decisions.