Pro-life New Hampshire Republicans wrote — and almost passed — a bill with an accidental loophole that would have legalized murder as long as the perpetrator was a pregnant woman or doctor acting “in an official capacity.”
The bill, Senate Bill 66, cleared the New Hampshire State House and Senate before anyone noticed the problem, according to Slate.
Lawmakers were aiming to pass a “fetal homicide” bill, a type of bill that stipulates a murder or manslaughter charge for causing the death of a developing fetus after a certain point in the pregnancy. Thirty-eight states already have them on the books, according to the Concord Monitor.
Supporters say these laws provide additional protection for a pregnant mother and her unborn fetus, while opponents say they’re just meant to erode a woman’s right to an abortion.
In this bill, New Hampshire Republicans sought to define a fetus as a person for the purpose of determining murder or manslaughter charges once it reached 20 weeks. They also wanted to ensure that something like a miscarriage or an abortion to save the life of the mother was not, by law, a murder or a homicide.
But in choosing how and when to exempt the death of a developing fetus from murder, manslaughter, homicide, or suicide charges, their solution was to use the phrase “any act” committed by the pregnant woman or a physician.
And in this case, “any act” means, well, any act. Including murder.
“The bill as drafted allows for physician-assisted suicide and allows a pregnant woman to commit homicide without consequences […] Although that was never the intent, that is the clear reading of the language,” said Republican J.R. Hoel, a state representative.
Republicans will revise the bill and put it up for a new vote later this month. Full text of the law can be viewed on the website of the New Hampshire Legislature, here.