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Lynch vetoes fetal homicide bill

By TED SIEFER
State House Bureau

June 18. 2012 5:05PM



CONCORD - Gov. John Lynch has vetoed a bill that would make causing the death of an unborn child equivalent to homicide.

In his veto message for House Bill 217, Lynch said Monday that he would only support changing the homicide statutes to apply to the death of a 'viable' fetus.

HB 217 would allow prosecutors to apply the state's homicide statutes, from murder to negligent homicide, to people who cause the death of a fetus eight weeks or older.

The 'viability' standard is generally considered 24 weeks.

Viability 'is understood by physicians and has been recognized by the courts,' Lynch said in his veto message. 'Viability is the time-frame at which a fetus is capable of sustained life outside the womb.'

Supporters of the bill say the law is necessary because of the egregious nature of crimes against pregnant women, such as a drunk driver who kills an unborn child in an accident.

The bill would not apply to abortions performed by a medical provider.

The chief Senate backer of the legislation, Sen. Jim Forsythe, R-Strafford, said the governor wrongly perceived the bill as a challenge to Roe v. Wade, which uses the standard of viability as a threshold for legal abortions.

'By using the same standard as abortion, you're saying that a stranger has an equal right to terminate a pregnancy before 20 weeks as the woman,' he said.

Forsythe maintained the eight-week mark was scientifically sound, since it's the point at which an embryo enters the fetus stage.

The House and Senate will meet June 27 to vote on whether to override Lynch's veto. Based on its 18-6 vote on the bill last month, there appear to be enough votes in the Senate for an override, which requires a two-thirds majority.

The House, however, voted for a bill that would use the standard of viability backed by Lynch.

The latest push for a fetal homicide law began after a 2006 fatal accident in Manchester in which a vehicle driven by Joshua Lamy struck a taxi, killing a passenger and later the unborn child of the taxi driver.

The state Supreme Court overturned one of the negligent homicide convictions against Lamy because state law did not allow the jury to consider the unborn child as a live human.

Lynch also raised another concern about the eight-week standard established in HB 217 - that it could affect fertility treatments.

The bill is 'ambiguous concerning whether or not the embryo stage is fully included or excluded' and 'could affect the availability of reproductive medical treatments that are offered to women and men that assist in building families,' he said.

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Ted Siefer may be reached at tsiefer@unionleader.com.


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