Remember the United States of Shame map? South Dakota had the highest rate of forcible rape of any state in this here union. Yet, despite that statistic, in 2006 South Dakota’s legislature passed the most extreme abortion law in the nation, a piece of legislation so extreme that it did not include exceptions for rape (nor incest nor the health of a pregnant woman). Governor Mike Rounds signed it into law, but voters repealed it by referendum at the ballot box later that year.
South Dakota is certainly spoiling for a pro-life fight, though. The Mount Rushmore State’s been itching to send a piece of abortion legislation to the Supreme Court to challenge 1973′s Roe v. Wade decision.
And now all eyes are on South Dakota’s prohibitive efforts after one of its state legislators introduced a bill that would seemingly alter the state’s legal definition of “justifiable homicide” to include the murder of abortion doctors. It’s still fairly vague what the bill’s purpose is or how the new statute would affect the law, but one thing’s for sure: This is generating some significant controversy around the nation. Vicki Saporta, the head of the National Abortion Federation, said: “The bill in South Dakota is an invitation to murder abortion providers.”
So let’s take a look at what’s really going on here. Mother Jones raised the issue on Tuesday, when Kate Sheppard wrote a detailed piece that nearly broke the left side of the Internet, alerting everyone to the existence of Rep. Phil Jensen‘s legislation:
A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of “justifiable homicide” to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus — a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation, House Bill 1171, has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote, and is expected to face a floor vote in the state’s GOP-dominated House of Representatives soon.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen, a committed foe of abortion rights, alters the state’s legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person “while resisting an attempt to harm” that person’s unborn child or the unborn child of that person’s spouse, partner, parent, or child. 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, quite predictably, disagreed with Mothers Jones’ interpretation of his bill. The state representative spoke to Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent on Tuesday to clear up left-wing concerns, only he served to confound the matter even further. In arguing that it would not legalize the killing of abortion doctors, Jensen told Sargent:
“It would if abortion was illegal,” he told me. “This code only deals with illegal acts. Abortion is legal in this country. This has nothing to do with abortion.”
As Sargent points out, Jensen seems to flippantly dismiss any and all possibility that his shortsighted measure could inflame anti-abortion fanatics to violence. So what’s its purpose?
“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-girfriend’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.” Pushed on whether the new measure could inflame the unhinged to kill abortion doctors, as some critics allege, Jensen scoffed. “You can fantasize all you want, but this is pretty clear cut,” he said. “Never say never, but if some loony did what you’re suggesting, then this law wouldn’t apply to them. It wouldn’t be justifiable homicide.”
“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-girfriend’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.”
Pushed on whether the new measure could inflame the unhinged to kill abortion doctors, as some critics allege, Jensen scoffed. “You can fantasize all you want, but this is pretty clear cut,” he said. “Never say never, but if some loony did what you’re suggesting, then this law wouldn’t apply to them. It wouldn’t be justifiable homicide.”
Never say never are some famous last words. From there, The Huffington Post’s Jason Linkins takes it all home with some thoughts on why this bill would be necessary in the first place:
Is there a localized outbreak of women having their abdomens beaten by people who want to avoid paying child support? Is it not already a crime in South Dakota to beat on your ex-girlfriend’s abdomen? And is it not yet permissible in South Dakota to defend oneself, with deadly force if necessary, against the threat of immediate harm to your person? (Maybe South Dakota is simply lagging behind on legal protections for ex-girlfriends.)
If you’re curious and enjoy looking at things first-hand, you can read Rep. Jensen’s bill right here.
What do you think about this piece of legislation? Is it necessary? Is it over-the-top? Do you believe it could be used to justify the killing of abortion doctors? Weigh in below.