Partial birth abortion veto overridden, but fetal homicide veto upheld
CONCORD — The Legislature voted to override Gov. John Lynch's veto of legislation aimed at protecting the unborn, but upheld his veto of a second measure.
Lawmakers voted to override the governor's veto of a bill giving the state a partial birth abortion statute tougher than the current federal law, but fell short of the two-thirds majority required to enact a bill establishing the crime of fetal homicide for actions causing the unjustified death of a fetus.
Opponents of the partial birth abortion bill tried and failed to win the day with arguments that the bill is unnecessary because there is already a federal law banning the procedure.
Critics targeted the component of the proposed New Hampshire bill that would have made it more stringent than the federal law. Under that provision, before a doctor could perform a partial birth abortion, a second qualified physician would have to certify that the woman was in danger of dying without the abortion. The opponents said that process could complicate life-or-death decisions in emergencies.
But supporters of the legislation prevailed with the argument that the state needed to stand up for the unborn.
“The people of New Hampshire do not want to be recognized as supporting something as horrific as this,” said Rep. Peter Silva, R-Nashua.
Fetal homicide bill
The fetal homicide bill would have given prosecutors the right to bring charges ranging from murder to negligent homicide to people who cause the death of a fetus of eight weeks gestation or longer.
In his veto of the fetal homicide bill, Lynch said the bill should apply only to a “viable” fetus, considered by some to be 24 weeks. The governor also claimed that it could hurt the work of fertility clinics by subjecting medical workers to criminal charges.
“The governor's veto message was so full of red herring that we could have a fish fry,” said Rep. Kathleen Souza, R-Manchester. “There have been no problems with this law on the federal level or for the 24 states that have it from conception.”
Supporters of the bill have worked to enact a fetal homicide bill since the 2006 traffic deaths of a mother and her unborn child in Manchester.
Souza urged lawmakers to recognize the 15 families in the state she said had been “robbed” of wanted children who died before birth as the result of the actions of other people.
Much of the debate centered on whether in vitro fertilization procedures that involve creation and destruction of embryos would fall under the homicide laws if the bill was enacted.
Rep. Stephen Surtleff, D-Concord, said medical professionals were worried that they could face prosecution under the bill as passed by the Legislature.
“Nowhere in this bill are there exceptions for the behavior of professionals in reproductive medicine who create and destroy embryos created for individuals having infertility issues,” Surtleff said. “House Bill 217 would subject staff to criminal and civil liability that could lead to a shutdown of the entire in vitro fertilization program in New Hampshire.”
Supporters of the legislation said fertilization clinics had nothing to fear, since the bill establishes a pregnancy of eight weeks as the time when the criminal charges can be brought.
The House voted to sustain the governor's veto by a vote of 201-126. Since the override vote failed to muster a two-thirds majority in the House, no action was needed in the Senate.
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