There’s a law being put forth in South Dakota by Rep. Phil Jensen that’s getting a lot of attention as it seems as if it would effectively allow for — perhaps even promote — the murder of abortion doctors. The law seeks to make killings intended to prevent harm to a fetus part of the definition of “justifiable homicide.” As reported in Mother Jones in a piece titled “South Dakota Moves To Legalize Killing Abortion Providers”: “If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman’s father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion — even if she wanted one.”
Rep. Jensen, as you might expect, is staunchly against abortion rights. Yet he claims the bill is not about killing abortion doctors at all. Instead, via Slate, its purpose is to make South Dakota criminal code more consistent.
Or, as Jensen clarified:
“Say an ex-boyfriend who happens to be father of a baby doesn’t want to pay child support for the next 18 years, and he beats on his ex-girlfriend’s abdomen in trying to abort her baby. If she did kill him, it would be justified. She is resisting an effort to murder her unborn child.”
Still, as Mother Jones reports, the National Abortion Federation (and others) are not placated by this “cloaking” of the issue in a seeming self-defense bill. Justifiable homicide, by the way, has been used before to defend murders of abortion doctors (17 of whom have been victims of attempts, and 8 of whom who’ve been killed, since 1993).
“The bill in South Dakota is an invitation to murder abortion providers,” says Vicki Saporta, the president of the National Abortion Federation, the professional association of abortion providers. “This is not an abstract bill,” Saporta says. The measure could have major implications if a “misguided extremist invokes this ‘self-defense’ statute to justify the murder of a doctor, nurse or volunteer,” the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families warned in a message to supporters last week.
And yet, as Dave Weigel points out, abortion is legal, no matter how hard South Dakota tries to make actually getting one. The bill could only legalize the murder of abortion doctors if abortion became illegal.
Beating your wife or even ex-girlfriend is currently illegal, as is not paying child support, not that that’s stopped any asshole bent on it — much the same way that legality hasn’t stopped any asshole bent on killing an abortion doctor.
The bill is expected to face a vote in the House soon.