By Associated Press - Sunday, April 20, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire’s Senate is voting whether to treat a fetus who dies in a homicide as a person even if the mother lives.

The House bill would let judges hand out stiffer sentences if the woman is pregnant when she dies, but critics say the fetus’ death should be a crime if the mother lives. A Senate committee is recommending that the Senate vote Thursday to treat an eight-week-old fetus as a person.

The House has already rejected the same proposal.

State Rep. Leon Rideout filed the bill after his daughter lost her baby as the result of a traffic accident.

Under current law, if an assault results in a miscarriage or stillbirth and the mother survives, a judge can sentence the assailant to up to 15 years in prison. The House’s version of the bill would allow enhanced sentences to the homicide statute for crimes resulting in the mother’s death. In the case of second degree murder, which is punishable by life in prison, the judge would have to state he or she had considered the miscarriage or stillbirth in deciding on a sentence.

Rideout, R-Lancaster, insisted his bill had nothing to do with abortion and included a provision excluding pregnant women obtaining abortions from being penalized. Rideout proposed initially applying the penalty after the eighth week of pregnancy but offered an amendment to make it after the 12th week. The House rejected both.

NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire opposed Rideout’s bill as a step toward granting personhood to fetuses and laying the groundwork for limiting abortions.

At least 38 states have fetal homicide laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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