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N.H. Senate to vote on fetal homicide bill

An airborne tank of pro-Russian insurgents take position in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, April 20, 2014. Pro-Russian insurgents defiantly refused to surrender their weapons or give up government buildings in eastern Ukraine, despite a diplomatic accord reached in Geneva and overtures from the government in Kiev. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

An airborne tank of pro-Russian insurgents take position in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, April 20, 2014. Pro-Russian insurgents defiantly refused to surrender their weapons or give up government buildings in eastern Ukraine, despite a diplomatic accord reached in Geneva and overtures from the government in Kiev. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The state Senate will vote this week on 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, a Lancaster Republican, 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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