New Hampshire's Fetal Homicide Law Backfires

In an attempt to clamp down on abortion access in the state earlier this month, New Hampshire lawmakers accidentally passed a law allowing pregnant women to kill people without any real consequences. They quickly corrected the loophole on Thursday, and the law isn't set to take effect until early next year, but the error quickly drew criticism from the public. Many pointed out jokingly that in their haste to approve a bill limiting women's rights, lawmakers accidentally gave pregnant women quite a strange boost in rights, instead.

Senate Bill 66, passed by Republican lawmakers, aimed to define a fetus as a human with full rights after 20 weeks' gestation, essentially making anyone who kills a fetus past that time liable to manslaughter or homicide charges. Supporters of "fetal homicide" bills say that such laws give women a legal avenue to press charges if their babies are killed during an assault or car crash, according to The Independent.

However, since these bills can also be read as anti-abortion bills, lawmakers added a clause exempting pregnant women who wanted to procure an abortion. The bill read that "any act committed by the pregnant woman" or her doctor wouldn't apply in any second-degree murder, manslaughter, or negligent homicide cases, according to Slate. The fine print there, of course, is that "any act" could include far more than just an abortion.

Technically, that would make physician-assisted suicide and murder A-OK for pregnant ladies. Whoops. Once lawmakers noticed the fairly serious loophole, however, they quickly fixed it on Thursday in a legislative move (called an "enrolled bills process") usually reserved for correcting spelling or grammatical errors.

It should be noted that — even if the loophole had remained in place — pregnant women in New Hampshire wouldn't be able to go off on killing rampages without repercussions. According to The Concord Monitor, the state has regulations in place to ensure laws can't be interpreted in a way that would lead to an "absurd result." And while every pregnant woman has probably fantasized about murdering the next stranger who touches her bump without permission, getting off scot-free for actually doing so would definitely count as an absurd result of the law.

There are already 38 states that have "fetal homicide" laws in place. Critics worry that the regulations take away essential rights from women to govern their own bodies and bring politicians one step closer to outlawing abortion. According to The Boston Globe, there have been instances in the past where pregnant women have been arrested after falling down the stairs or attempting to commit suicide, since the law was now protecting the fetus's separate rights. In New Hampshire's case, women with fetuses more than 20 weeks old could now face the same legal worries.

With its loophole now closed, the New Hampshire bill will head to Gov. Chris Sununu's desk next. According to the New Hampshire Public Radio, Sununu has said he will sign the bill into law, which would make it effective on Jan. 1, 2018.