To avoid clashing with Supreme Court rulings on abortion rights, the bill included an exception for pregnant women and medical professionals. But the phrasing of the legislation had unintended consequences. Under its original wording, pregnant women and medical professionals would be entirely exempt from the state’s homicide statutes, effectively giving them legal cover to commit murder with impunity.
“The bill as drafted allows for physician-assisted suicide and allows a pregnant woman to commit homicide without consequences,” State Representative J.R. Hoell told the Concord Monitor, adding that such an outcome was “never the intent” of the bill’s drafters.
Legislators noticed the error before the bill could be signed into law and quickly drafted an amendment. The state legislature approved the revised version on Thursday. By noticing the change in time, Republican lawmakers saved New Hampshire’s residents from the potential threat of pregnant women roaming the state with de facto licenses to kill.
The Senate health-care bill also deals in life-and-death matters, and one need look no further than the law it seeks to dismantle to find examples of how dangerous drafting errors can be. Opponents of the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, nearly collapsed the law during Barack Obama’s second term by seizing on a drafting error at the heart of the vast, complex legislation.
A central feature of the ACA was the creation of state and federal health-care exchanges where patients could buy health insurance. To prop up those exchanges, the ACA also provided tax credits to Americans who bought plans through them. But a small problem arose. The language of the statute itself specified that the credits were available to plans bought from an “exchange established by the State.”
In the case King v. Burwell, a group of plaintiffs challenged the law in federal court by arguing that the key provision meant the subsidies applied only to the state exchanges and not to the federal one, which covered almost three dozen states. If they had prevailed, the hole in subsidies would have pushed the American health-insurance industry into a “death spiral.” Most observers agreed Congress meant to extend the tax credits to plans bought from both the federal and state exchanges, but the plaintiffs, who were supported by conservative groups opposed to the ACA in its entirety, argued the law must be followed to the letter.
The Supreme Court ultimately disagreed and sided with the Obama administration to interpret the law as applying to both federal and state exchanges. “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for a 6-3 majority. “If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.”