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29 Jun 2017

For days, New Hampshire allowed pregnant women to murder people!

When words spoke louder than actions

A well-intentioned bill in US' New Hampshire to ensure safety of pregnant women and their unborn children backfired amusingly.

The drafters and voters overlooked the literal meaning of the carelessly-worded homicide bill: it legally allowed pregnant women to commit "any act", which in effect meant they could go on killing people without worry.

It took lawmakers one week to notice the potentially havoc-wreaking mistake.

In context

When words spoke louder than actions
What was the original bill about in the first place?


What was the original bill about in the first place?

Republican lawmakers recently passed Senate Bill 66 to protect pregnant women and their unborn kids from violence: it defined a fetus aged over 20 weeks as a 'viable fetus', meaning its death will be considered "homicide".

However, activists slammed the act, arguing it will encroach on women's reproductive rights.

Doctors also protested it, saying an existing statute anyway recommends harsher penalties for crimes against pregnant women.


So lawmakers decided to exempt pregnant women, but well

So lawmakers decided to add some exemptions to safely allow legal abortions.

The original bill read: "ANY ACT committed by the pregnant woman", or "…at the request or direction of the pregnant woman or for the benefit of the pregnant woman" will be exempt from "cases of first and second degree murder, manslaughter, negligent homicide, and causing or aiding suicide".

Literally, any act.

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So could pregnant women actually murder people without consequences?

Not really, according to existing regulations. The state already has laws in place that prohibit courts from interpreting a law literally "when a literal interpretation would lead to an absurd result". Pregnant women walking around killing people would definitely have been an "absurd result".

Things were well again after a week


Things were well again after a week

The mistake was noticed after a week, after it had been cleared by both chambers of the Congress and was on its way to Governor Chris Sununu's desk for approval.

Members quickly adopted the "enrolled bills process", reserved for grammatical and vocabulary errors, and changed the language.

Governor Sununu has reportedly said he will sign the bill, which will be effective starting January'18.

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