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Lynch vetoes NH fetal homicide bill

June 19, 2012
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CONCORD, N.H.—Gov. John Lynch has vetoed a bill that would have expanded New Hampshire's homicide law to include causing the death of a fetus.

Lynch said he could support legislation that required a fetus to be "viable" or about 24 weeks old before a prosecution could be brought. The bill set the age at about eight weeks. Lynch said the bill fails to contain a "viability" standard.

Lynch said Monday the bill would make it difficult for residents to obtain fertility treatments and unreasonably restricts a woman's rights during pregnancy.

He also said it is not clear whether an emergency room doctor would be able to perform emergency treatment on a pregnant woman brought in unconscious following a car accident or stroke, especially if there is no legally appointed guardian.

Both the House and Senate had voted in favor of charging someone with first-degree murder, second-degree-murder or negligent homicide for causing a pregnant woman to lose her fetus, but they disagreed over when the bill should apply.

The House originally wanted to apply the bill to fetal deaths after 24 weeks of pregnancy, while the Senate set the threshold at eight weeks. The House agreed to accept the Senate version, sending the bill to Lynch, who said he had serious concerns about it.

Lynch, in his veto message, wrote he was concerned the bill would allow for a murder prosecution relative to an 8-week-old fetus when medical experts believe there is a one-in-four possibility that a pregnancy ends in miscarriage. "That is why I believe that any criminal liability for the death of the fetus should be based upon `viability' which is not rigidly tied to a certain number of weeks following conception."

The Legislature meets next week to take up Lynch's vetoed bills.

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