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Feminist News


February-18-10

NH House Rejects Fetus as Person Bill

The New Hampshire state House voted 219 to 122 yesterday against a bill that treated a fetus as a person for the purposes of homicide. The bill would have added "unborn child" to "the definition of 'another' for the purpose of first and second degree murder, manslaughter, and negligent homicide" under state law.

State Representative Beth Rodd (D) told the Associated Press, "this bill is a wolf in sheep's clothing and an assault on reproductive freedom" that potentially would have established personhood as beginning at conception. Existing New Hampshire law allows prosecution of those who intentionally injure a pregnant woman, causing either miscarriage or stillbirth.

Supporters of the bill argued that the bill is unrelated to abortion and is in response to a 2006 case in which the state Supreme Court ultimately threw out the conviction of a driver who hit a cab, resulting in the stillbirth of the cab driver's baby, who was briefly kept alive on life support, according to the Associated Press. The driver also killed a passenger in the cab. The conviction in the stillbirth of the child was thrown out because New Hampshire state law does not define a fetus a person unless it shows signs of life.

The bill did provide an exception for abortion and states that the homicide provision would not "apply to any act committed by the mother of the unborn child, to any medical procedure including abortion, performed by a physician or other licensed medical professional at the request of the pregnant woman or her legal guardian, or to the lawful dispensation or administration of lawfully prescribed medication." The bill continued and defined "abortion" as "the act of using or prescribing any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other substance, device, or means with the intent to terminate the clinically diagnosable pregnancy of a woman with knowledge that the termination by those means will, with reasonable likelihood, cause the death of the unborn child."

Abortion opponents have pushed so-called "personhood initiatives" in several states. These measures declare that a fertilized egg is a "person" who enjoys "inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of the law." The laws would threaten not only abortion itself, but IUDs, emergency contraception, in vitro fertilization clinics, and stem cell research. Currently, petition drives and legal cases for so-called "personhood initiatives" are underway in Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, and Nevada.

Media Resources: Associated Press 2/10/10, 2/17/10; New Hampshire HB 1644; Feminist Daily Newswire 2/11/10