Rep. Rideout: why I’m filing Griffin’s Law

Rep. Leon Rideout (facebook.com/rideout4rep)

Rep. Leon Rideout (facebook.com/rideout4rep)

In New Hampshire, when a pregnant woman loses her preborn child to an act of violence or other wrongful act – a child she wants and has chosen to carry to term – there is no crime. The statutes have nothing to say. It would take a fetal homicide law to change that.

Such laws are in place in other states, and the New Hampshire Supreme Court in the 2009 Lamy case urged the legislature to pass one. The last effort passed House and Senate but fell to Gov. John Lynch’s veto in 2012. Rep. Leon Rideout (R-Lancaster) is undeterred and is bringing back a fetal homicide bill that he’s calling Griffin’s Law. Why, when a similar bill failed so recently?

Because it’s personal. Griffin was his grandson.

I contacted Rep. Rideout recently and asked him about his bill. Here are excerpts from his written reply.

 On June 4th one of my daughters was involved in an auto accident when another driver ran a stop sign at a high rate of speed into the path of my daughter’s car. She was approximately 7½ months pregnant with Griffin…. [M]y daughter suffered serious injuries….While trying to stabilize her for a Med flight to Dartmouth, Griffin took a turn for the worse and despite an emergency C section and a 40 minute fight to resuscitate Him Griffin succumbed to injuries from the crash.
Current state law does not provide for homicide or manslaughter charges for the death of a child under such circumstances. There is simply no victim, as the Court reluctantly concluded in Lamy. As Justice Duggan wrote for a unanimous Court in that case, “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.”
Rideout calls Lynch’s veto of the last fetal homicide bill “a black mark forever on his legacy.” Regarding the Lamy case, Rideout says he’s familiar with it, and finds “repugnant” the fact no such bill has been passed in response. “It was clear the Court was asking for the legislature to correct the law’s language….[T]his issue will not go away.”
Rideout’s bill has not yet been scheduled for a hearing but is likely to come before a House committee in January.
related posts on the 2012 fetal homicide bill:

Lynch Strikes Again; Vetoes Fetal Homicide Bill

Late Monday afternoon, Governor Lynch vetoed House Bill 217 – the fetal homicide bill, Dominick’s Law. I have blogged about this bill many times, beginning here. In response to the veto, I wrote the following statement today on behalf of Cornerstone Policy Research, where I serve as VP for Government Affairs.


By vetoing HB 217, the fetal homicide bill, Governor Lynch has managed to get three things wrong at once. He has misread the bill, he has ignored the reasonable concerns of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, and he has done what he can to make sure that drunk drivers and abusive partners are not held responsible for actions that put an end to a woman’s wanted pregnancy. 

The first concern the governor stated in his veto message was that the bill would allow the state to prosecute a pregnant woman for causing the death of the fetus. This is absolutely false. The first full paragraph of the bill is very clear: the bill does not apply to any act performed by a pregnant woman, or any act done with her consent, that causes the death of a fetus. This concern was raised and addressed repeatedly in the legislative hearings on this bill. 
The New Hampshire Supreme Court in the 2009 case State v. Lamy was forced to overturn a drunk driver’s conviction for causing the death of Dominick Emmons, whose premature birth was triggered by injuries sustained by his mother in the collision, and whose death two weeks later was a result of the trauma he sustained. The unanimous decision of the Court included a plea to the legislature: “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.” The legislature did just that, and now Governor Lynch is inventing excuses to block this needed legislation.
Finally, while a woman has the legal right to choose to terminate her pregnancy, a woman’s choice to carry a pregnancy deserves respect and legal protection as well. Just as “viability” has no bearing in New Hampshire on the right to terminate a pregnancy, “viability” should have no bearing on the right to carry a pregnancy to term. Anytime a pregnant woman loses her baby against her will due to another’s wrongful act, a crime has been committed and the state should have the tools to respond accordingly. The family of Dominick Emmons surely knows that, the New Hampshire Supreme Court knows that, and the New Hampshire House and Senate know that. Governor Lynch’s refusal to bring New Hampshire law on this subject into the 21st century can best be met with an override.

Lynch Vetoes Partial-Birth Abortion Ban; Override to Be Attempted 6/27

Late Friday afternoon, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch announced his veto of a bill to ban partial-birth abortion. The House and Senate will consider overrides to this and other vetoes on June 27.

After becoming the longest-serving New Hampshire governor in nearly two centuries, and after building a reputation as a moderate politician, he has chosen to end his tenure by defending the indefensible. John Lynch is pleasant, intelligent, cheerful, savvy, and friendly. But moderate? No politician who keeps the way clear for this kind of carnage is “moderate.”

The New Hampshire bill, HB 1679, was originally introduced by Rep. Ross Terrio (R-Manchester) as a ban on the partial-birth procedure and a ban on all late-term abortions. Soon after introduction, Terrio agreed to amend the bill so that it addressed only partial-birth. This put the bill in line with similar legislation in force in other states. The bill was drafted to complement federal law and to withstand court challenges. In a spirit of compromise and cooperation, supporters of the bill agreed to amendments that helped to build strong majorities for passage in House and Senate.

None of this figured into Governor Lynch’s veto. While beginning his statement with the assurance “I am not a proponent of so-called partial birth abortion”, he went on to reject the bill because he found it unnecessary and dangerous, in that order.

The federal ban means none is needed at the state level, according to the governor. He overlooked or ignored the fact that the federal law is only triggered if the partial-birth procedure is committed by a federal employee, or by someone on federal property, or by someone engaged in interstate commerce. He also made no mention of the fact that federal officials may choose not to enforce the federal law, leaving states without their own partial-birth bans helpless to stop the procedure.

Governor Lynch expressed fear that HB 1679 would jeopardize the life of a woman in emergency circumstances. He was critical of the bill’s requirement that two physicians agree that life-threatening conditions exist before a partial-birth procedure can be done. Getting that second opinion could cost a woman her life, he fears.

But how? The partial-birth ban would apply only to a particular procedure, not to all abortion methods. Any physician declaring an emergency could terminate a pregnancy without a second opinion, presumably with the pregnant woman’s consent, using any method other than the one that pulls the live child/fetus partway out of the woman’s body before “termination.” The governor’s objection sounds as though he means that women are at risk if that procedure is ruled out. (If the governor had true concern for women’s health and safety, he would direct the state department of public health to collect statistics on abortion in New Hampshire, so that he would have hard data to buttress any assertion that abortion is safe for women.)

Roe v. Wade established a woman’s right to choose abortion. According to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Gonzales case, Roe did not establish a provider’s right to kill a child after assisting a woman in a vaginal delivery of a portion of the child’s body. Or should I say fetus’s? Tough call, when the child/fetus is half-in and half-out of the mother. In any case, the Supreme Court upheld a federal ban on the partial-birth procedure. The Court decided that while the ban prevented the performance of one particularly gruesome and inhumane procedure, it did not amount to a denial of a woman’s choice since alternative abortion methods are available. Note that the federal law and New Hampshire bill apply to abortion providers, not to women seeking termination of pregnancy.

Having issued the veto, John Lynch is beyond persuasion. Representatives and state senators are not.

The governor’s full statement on HB 1679 is at http://1.usa.gov/MdosTR

Friday Assortment: Run for Office, Wait for Vetoes, Watch the Court

If you want to run for state office as a member of a political party later this year, you have until 5 p.m. tomorrow (Friday, June 15) to file. The primary election will be held on September 11, and the general election follows on November 6. What’s your pleasure? State rep, maybe? Two bucks and a trip to your town clerk to fill out the paperwork will make you a candidate. Prospective delegates to the GOP state convention register with town clerks as well, with no filing fee. Other offices – state senate, executive council, county offices, governor, Congress – must file at the Secretary of State’s office in Concord. Filing information   is here.

A special note to my Republican readers: running to be a delegate to the state convention costs you nothing, and winning a seat requires nothing more than a couple of meetings. If the party platform matters to you, this is a job for you.

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Governor Lynch has begun plowing through the pile of bills on his desk, and he has found his veto pen. An education tax credit bill is the latest victim. The fetal homicide bill still awaits action. The House and Senate are scheduled to meet on June 27 to deal with vetoed bills.

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The current U.S. Supreme Court session will end in a couple of weeks, with a ruling expected on some aspects of the president’s health care plan. The unlikeliest outcome is that the plan will be struck down altogether. If that happy event comes to pass, the HHS mandate will be dead. The Court could find the plan constitutional in all aspects (perish the thought), or constitutional in part. In either of those situations, the lawsuits against the mandate will continue, challenging its inherent religious liberty violation.

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A “Fortnight for Religious Freedom” begins next Thursday, June 21, and ends on Independence Day, July 4. Organized by Catholics who have been moved to action by the mandate, the two-week observance is for anyone who’s ready to pray, study, and act to defend our First Amendment heritage. Find more information  here.

Decisions: Lynch & Bass

The fetal homicide and partial-birth abortion bills would not die, despite grueling journeys through the New Hampshire House & Senate. Look up the dockets for these bills on the state web site sometime. A number of tales are hidden behind those dry factual entries.

And so, at long last, Governor Lynch will get these bills. I am telling every pro-life person I know to get those calls and emails going. The number is 271-2121, where I’m sure a very polite individual is waiting to take our calls. Lynch’s pleasant and understated persona is not enough to make me forget that he vetoed parental notification (and overriding that veto was one of the proudest moments for the legislative class of ’10). He has not made direct veto threats on either fetal homicide or partial birth, but on the latter, it’s a real stretch for me to believe he’ll support it.

As for fetal homicide, if Lynch can’t be persuaded by the state Supreme court’s Lamy case, he just can’t be persuaded.

The success of these bills so far is great news, and it shows what can be done with legislators who can think straight. As for the governor, we live in hope. What will he do?

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In Congress today, a bill called PRENDA came up for a vote, and fell short of the two-thirds that it needed. PRENDA stands for Pregnancy Nondiscrimination Act, and it was written to ban sex-selection abortions. PP hates the bill, and the president has weighed in against it as well. When the dust settled this afternoon, only seven Republicans had voted against the bill. One was Charlie Bass, New Hampshire’s own Congressman from the Second District.

Bass is avowedly pro-choice, and has been for as long as I can remember. I used to testify in front of his committee when he was a state senator. But refusing to frown on sex selection? Really? Worldwide, most of the preborn children killed for being the “wrong” sex are girls. There’s a war on women for you.

This won’t help him in November, of course, since Ann Kuster will get the pro-Roe vote. Kuster’s mother, the late Susan McLane, served with Bass in the state senate years ago. McLane and Bass were both “pro-choice” Republicans. It is some kind of rough justice that pits McLane’s daughter against Bass now.