The New Hampshire Senate on Thursday rejected measures that would have granted “personhood” rights to fetuses killed in a homicide.
HB 1503, sponsored by Rep. Leon Rideout (R-Lancaster), originally treated eight-week-old fetuses who die in an attack on a pregnant woman as separate persons. The house amended the bill so that it did not create “personhood” rights for a fetus, and instead increased criminal penalties for killing a pregnant woman. Once the bill passed the house and moved to a senate committee, however, that committee voted to restore Rideout’s original proposal.
But the full senate rejected the committee’s recommendations and tabled the bill, effectively dismissing it. The senate also rejected an amendment that a viable fetus be considered a person.
New Hampshire already has stiff penalties for killing a fetus in an assault on a pregnant woman, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison.
“If what you’re really seeking is justice for pregnant women and their families, that can and should be accomplished,” Laura Thibault, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire, told RH Reality Check. “And I think that in New Hampshire, we’ve successfully shown that it can be accomplished without granting personhood to the fetus.
Fetal homicide laws of one kind or another are on the books in 38 states, and Florida recently passed one that would make it a separate crime to kill or injure a fetus at any stage of development. Reproductive rights advocates say that while the loss of a wanted pregnancy is tragic and should be recognized, creating “personhood” rights is the wrong way to protect women and bring their attackers to justice.
The vote in New Hampshire, Thibault said, “proves that this wasn’t the right avenue for what the bill’s sponsors were seeking.”