Hulu got some free publicity last week when several costumed “handmaids” showed up in the New Hampshire House gallery to protest a fetal homicide bill, which would allow prosecution for acts of violence causing the death of a preborn child.

“Handmaids” in the N.H. House gallery. Photo by Beth Scaer; used with permission, all rights reserved.

The bonneted “handmaids” were inspired by the Hulu original series The Handmaid’s Tale, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel. The story is about “handmaids” used by men for sex and surrogate childbearing in a society where fertility is at a premium. In the story, women are used, sex is coerced, and the government is fine with that: bad situations all around.

So what does The Handmaid’s Tale have to do with a fetal homicide bill?

Following the lead of the ACLU, abortion lobbyists, and perhaps UltraViolet, the bonneted protesters in the House gallery apparently believed that a bill recognizing unborn victims of violence was somehow an attack on women’s rights. New Hampshire’s bill specifies that it would not apply to any decision made by a pregnant woman, including abortion; the protesters nonetheless objected to the bill. The “handmaids” were silent right up to the point when the House passed the bill anyway. That was enough to provoke a handmaid or two to call out “shame!”

I wonder how that “shame” sounded to the man sitting nearby in the gallery whose pregnant daughter had been injured in an auto collision and whose injuries had led to the death of her preborn child, a boy named Griffin. The child was delivered in the aftermath of the crash, but died shortly thereafter. Because his injuries had been sustained in utero, his death could not be considered a homicide under law, regardless of any culpability that the driver may have had for the mother’s injuries. Since then, Griffin’s grandfather has fought for fetal homicide legislation.

In the 2009 Lamy decision, the New Hampshire Supreme Court had to overturn a drunk driver’s homicide conviction. That driver had slammed into a taxi at 100 miles per hour. The taxi driver’s son was delivered by emergency c-section but died two weeks later from injuries sustained in utero as a result of the crash. That was no homicide, ruled the Court, with obvious regret.

The unanimous Lamy decision included this nudge to legislators: “Should the legislature find the result in this case as unfortunate as we do, it should follow the lead of many other states and revisit the homicide statutes as they pertain to a fetus.” Now, in 2017, that nudge just might yield a fetal homicide law. Might. Abortion advocates are fiercely lobbying the Governor to veto the bill, in spite of the Governor’s previously-announced support for the measure. They successfully beat back another fetal homicide bill five years ago when a previous Governor cast a veto.

The women whose losses I’ve described sustained serious physical injuries themselves, and prosecutors had the option (which in the Lamy case was exercised) of filing criminal charges against the party responsible for those injuries. The deaths of their children, though, were not crimes under current New Hampshire law. The women’s childbearing choices were thwarted. Their reproductive rights were compromised in deadly ways, and the law could not recognize that.

Apparently, women who choose to carry their pregnancies to term aren’t exercising the kind of reproductive rights the costumed “handmaids” wanted to promote. Go figure.

The main impact of the bonneted protesters was to bring Hulu’s program to the attention of many people in the State House who hadn’t been aware of it. I hope Hulu appreciated the free promotion.

Ellen Kolb blogs about New Hampshire life-issue policy at Leaven for the Loaf and looks farther afield in ellenkolb.com