CONCORD – The New Hampshire House Tuesday soundly struck down legislation stating that “life begins at conception.”
The vote was 214-95 that House Bill 1504 is inexpedient to legislate.
Despite the lopsided vote, more House members spoke in favor of the bill than against it.
Rep. Lenette Peterson, R-Merrimack, called it “a simple bill that just recognizes when life begins.”
She said it is “an irrefutable fact of biology” that life begins at conception and even pro-choice leaders have recognized that abortion is killing a human being.
Rep. J.R. Hoell, R-Dunbarton, the chief sponsor, said that life can begin at any time between conception and birth, “and we as a nation need to make that decision. Where is it?”
Hoell said the question of “viability” is bogus because even after birth, “If you leave a baby unattended, that baby will pass away.”
Conception, he said, is the “first time there is a unique genetic makeup. It’s there that we have actually created another human being.”
“No matter how we try to dilute the truth,” added Rep. Stephen Holmes, R-Alton, “human embryos are human organisms and the human species at the earliest stage. No matter how we try to dilute the truth, (with abortion), we are really talking about the termination of a human life.
“By underscoring the truth by the passage of this bill, I’d hope premature termination of the life of an individual would become increasingly rare,” he said.
But Rep. Charlene Takesian, R-Pelham, said the implications of the bill passing “would be far-reaching” and could block access to contraception, in vitro fertilization, and stem cell research.
She charged supporters “hope this bill would set the stage for overturning” the landmark Roe V. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
“This is not a matter this legislative body should consider,” said Rep. Marjorie Smith, D-Durham. “It should be considered in other places based on your personal beliefs.”
During a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee in February, Hoell said the bill purposely does not address, and leaves as an open question, whether passage of the bill would lead to prosecutions of physicians who perform abortions.
But Hoell told committee his bill was not intended to make criminals of women who have abortions. He pointed out that the bill says, “Nothing in this (bill) shall be construed to authorize the prosecution of any woman for the death of her unborn child.”
The committee recommended the bill be killed on a bipartisan vote of 14-3.
Sarah Persechino of NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire told the committee that in 2011, 14 state legislatures introduced 26 “personhood” measures, and nine more considered ballot measures.
“So far, none of these initiatives have been successful,” she said. “But if anti-choice forces pass a ‘personhood’ measure in just one state, that’s all it will take to start a legal challenge to Roe Vs. Wade.”
According to the national pro-life lobby group Americans United for Life, seven states have enacted “pro-life declarations” or “similar laws that talk about life beginning at conception or similar verbiage.”
Arkansas, for instance, declares a state policy “to protect the life of every unborn child from conception until birth, to the extent permitted by the Federal Constitution.”
Idaho has a policy “that all state statutes, rules and constitutional provisions shall be interpreted to prefer, by all legal means, live childbirth over abortion.”
Kentucky declares that if the U.S. Constitution is amended or “relevant judicial decisions are reversed or modified, the declared policy of this Commonwealth to recognize and to protect the lives of all human beings regardless of their degree of biological development shall be fully restored.”
Louisiana law states that “the unborn child is a human being from the time of conception and is, therefore, a legal person for purposes of the unborn child’s right to life and is entitled to the right to life from conception under the laws and Constitution of this State.”