if fetal homicide legislation is going to be cast as a women’s rights issue, the women who lost children and grandchildren belong front and center. Make sure your state reps know about these women, before the June 1 vote on SB 66. No excuses.
I’m not going to link to the mendacious social media posts that have gone up in recent days against the fetal homicide bill whose vote in the New Hampshire House is only a few days away. It’s enough to know that the vote tally must be terribly close, or the opposition wouldn’t be so intense.
The general tone of the opponents is that this is a women’s rights issue; they’re-coming-for-your-uterus. I wish that were a parody, but this is what fetal homicide is up against.
The truth of the matter is that SB 66 would not apply to any fetal death occurring with the mother’s consent (e.g. abortion) or due to any act performed by a health care provider in the course of the provider’s professional duties. But that’s the truth, and as the saying goes, a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets its pants on.
It’s time to remember the women whose losses have illuminated the need for fetal homicide legislation in New Hampshire. Think of their rights, their thwarted choices, their children and grandchildren.
What follows is taken from my coverage of fetal homicide bills in New Hampshire since 2012.
The death of Brianna Emmons’s son Dominick in 2006 was at issue in the Lamy case decided by the New Hampshire Supreme Court in 2009.
Joshua Lamy is in prison today and is likely to be there for at least the next four decades. He’s serving time for, among other things, one of the two lives he took when he smashed into a Manchester taxi at over 100 mph in 2006. He successfully appealed his conviction for the second death, arguing that in the eyes of the law, there was no crime because there was no victim.
The taxi driver, Brianna Emmons, was seven months pregnant. Her injuries and the resulting diminished blood flow to her child were severe enough to call for an emergency cesarean. Ms. Emmons named her son Dominick. Two weeks later, he succumbed to “perinatal asphyxia resulting from maternal abdominal trauma” (State of New Hampshire v. Joshua Lamy, 158 N.H. 511). Those two weeks, bracketed by birth and death certificates, weren’t enough to make Dominick Emmons a victim under New Hampshire law.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision written by Justice James Duggan, went by existing New Hampshire law in overturning Lamy’s convictions for manslaughter and negligent homicide in Dominick’s death. The justices unanimously recognized that existing law was inadequate.
“Should the legislature find the result in this case as unfortunate as we do, it should follow the lead of many other states and revisit the homicide statutes as they pertain to a fetus.”
In vetoing 2012’s fetal homicide bill, the first attempt to rectify the law that forced the Lamy decision, then-Governor John Lynch falsely claimed that “this legislation … would allow the State of New Hampshire to prosecute a pregnant woman”. The governor missed the plain language of the bill in front of him. In fact, neither 2012’s bill nor the 2017 version (SB 66) would apply to any pregnancy termination caused by any person acting with the consent of the mother.
As described by her father, Ashlyn Rideout was 7½ months pregnant in 2013 when she was injured in a motor vehicle collision. In the hours following the collision, Ms. Rideout’s baby son Griffin was delivered via emergency cesarean. Her son did not survive.
Any fault on the part of one of the drivers was irrelevant under law as far as Griffin was concerned. Prosecutors did not even have the option of considering Griffin’s death in determining what, if any, charges to file in connection with the collision.
Since then, I’ve seen Ms. Rideout at hearings on fetal homicide legislation. She’s been quiet, leaving the testimony to others in her family. She’s been waiting, year after year, for passage of a fetal homicide law.
Griffin’s grandmother, “Grammy Shirley,” pleaded with legislators in 2014. Griffin’s death was her loss, too. She wanted to make sure the legislators knew that fetal homicide legislation was no transitory cause. “We’re on a crusade,” she said tearfully, with a relative standing next to her displaying photos to the committee. “Our family is on a mission to make sure if a person causes bodily harm or death to an unborn child due to violence or criminal behavior, there will be consequences.”
A few days later, as a House committee voted on the 2014 bill, Nashua Rep. Latha Mangipudi told her colleagues about her concerns with fetal homicide legislation. “It’s very unsettling for me to say, I mean, I see the intent [of the original bill], but we are addressing one aspect of fetus as person. That’s an undue burden. I’m very uncomfortable [with this], as a woman.”
Shirley Kenison-Ward could have swapped notes with the legislator about how uncomfortable a woman can be.
Deana Crucitti was at full term with a little girl in early 2004 – only a few days away from a planned cesarean delivery. The car she was driving was hit head-on. Mrs. Crucitti sustained serious injuries, and the impact of the collision ruptured the amniotic sac around her baby. Despite valiant medical efforts, the baby did not survive.
Charge against the driver whose car struck Mrs. Crucitti’s: vehicular assault, for injuries inflicted on Mrs. Crucitti and her preschool-age son. No charge was possible for the baby’s death. New Hampshire uses the centuries-old “born-alive” rule in determining whether a child has been killed by another’s action.
Without a fetal homicide law, the Crucittis got the same shock as baby Griffin’s family: the child simply never existed, under state law.
Deana Crucitti testified on a 2015 New Hampshire fetal homicide bill with her husband Nathan at her side. It’s clear that eleven years have not dulled the pain of their daughter’s death. They brought with them a photo of their daughter as she looked after her emergency delivery at a hospital shortly after the collision. Their little girl would have survived except for the trauma inflicted by the collision.
In 2017, the House vote on SB 66 is scheduled for June 1. Whether or not SB 66 passes, a similar bill, HB 156, is in “retained” status and must get a House vote before crossover day in March 2018.